Tag Archives: Wendy Cooper

Lake Louise

We headed out to Lake Louise for the day while in Banff National Park.  We got up early from the Johnston Canyon Campground and headed down the Bow Valley Parkway.  The plan was to hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House but my ankle was still swollen, I was still running a fever from being taken off the medication for my ankle.  We got there in good time and got a good parking spot (Parks Canada staff running the parking lots makes it run  very smooth).  As we walked up the path to the Tea House, I realized that a combination of rain, a fever, and a messed up ankle, I needed to understand my limits.  We’ll head back up there next year.

Before anyone feels sorry for us, did I mention we were still on the shore of Lake Louise?  It’s pretty spectacular view and we were about to find out that our fellow tourists were pretty great.

Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkIMGP2683Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkIMGP2695Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkOliver at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper, Mark Cooper, and Oliver Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper, Mark Cooper, and Oliver Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National Park

From there we headed down the mountain and stopped at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen

Laggan's Mountain Bakery and Delicatessan

Everyone I know that has been to Laggan’s raves about how great it is.  You have to see and smell it to believe it.  Wendy picked out some Jamaican Patties and got use some of the best pizza I have ever tasted.  The bakery is worth the stop if you are even close to Lake Louise.

Status: It’s Complicated

My father-in-law died of cancer last week.   Our relationship evolved over time  He never liked me from the time I got engaged to Wendy and grew to hate me later.  Wendy writes about her father here and how he grew to hate her as well.  Now he is gone.

Mark joked with me a while ago and asked, “Are there any family members that don’t hate you with a passion?”  We made a physical list.  Those that fall into the “passionately hate” and “hate” list is pretty long.

My dad and his wife would fall into the hater category.  That has never bothered me.  He left the day before my brother was born.  Even having my in-laws hate me doesn’t bother me anymore.  What has really bothered is the rejection of their own daughter.  Maybe since I am married to Wendy, I am biased but rejecting someone because they were molested on your watch as parents doesn’t seem justified.  Rejecting Mark and Oliver because it was too hard and uncomfortable to accept what happened to their mother isn’t right either. 

At the same time Mark knows that he does have a great uncle in my brother and some great friends.  Him and Oliver also have each other and Wendy and I.  That is worth something.

Last week when we were camping at Johnston Canyon Campground, the loss and waste really hit me.  On the first night it was dark and we had a Niteize light on Marley.  She is a black dog and when it is dark, she blends in so I would turn this on so we could see her.  A three year old boy walked down the road screeching with joy when he saw Marley.  He had shoes with blinking red lights on them and thought they were soulmates.

The first night he walked by was with his mom but over the next few days he had brought his dad, grandpa and grandma down and would say to me, “Can you make your dog go blinkie again?”  How do you say no to that? [If you have a soul, you can not].  As the kid would dance with Marley for a bit, I got to know the family and I realize that Wendy’s parents gave up those crazy experiences of seeing their grandson dance with a blinking dogs in the middle of the night.  They gave up birthdays, Christmases, and doing things like see the awe and wonder of Yoho National Park together with them.  They weren’t there when Wendy almost died when Oliver was born.  They weren’t there when Mark was hurt.  They weren’t ever there. 

I wish I could say they didn’t realize it but I sat in the same living room I am in now as Wendy begged and pleaded with her father to get some help and work things out.  He looked in the eye and said, “Wendy, I don’t want a relationship with you and I don’t want one with Mark.  I have two other grandchildren and that is enough.”  

As Wendy points out, the obituary is a final shot.  Her and the boys are listed as loving family of the man who wanted nothing to do with any of them and who was abusive and mean to her to almost the very end.

Johnston Canyon

We hiked last Johnston Canyon last year.  It was packed and I didn’t really like it at all.  This is the photo of it that has stuck in my memory.  Way too many people.

After hiking to Silverton Falls and checking out some of Castle Mountain, we came back to the campground while Wendy slept off a headache in her hammock.  After dinner, we went back to a now empty Johnston Canyon and hiked up to the lower falls.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National Park

As we crossed this, we learned that Marley hates heights and really hates boardwalks.  She refused to walk across it unless I told her it was okay.  She would constantly look back at me and wait until I told her it was okay and then she would walk very low to the ground. This scene was repeated over and over again throughout the hike.  As long as she didn’t look down, she was fine.  If she did, she wasn’t happy.Johnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National Park

Growing up in Calgary after my dad left, we had no money at all.  Johnston Canyon was our summer vacation.  We would come up and hike the canyon and then have lunch at Sawback before heading back home.  It has always been a special place to me.  We always hiked it on a non-peak day so it never was packed like it is most days in the summer with people parked for miles in either direction.

Hiking it after dinner when the hordes have left was the Johnston Canyon that I recalled growing up.  Only about 20 people on the trail, let’s of room to explore, no idiots with selfie sticks whacking me on the head.  There were just a few people wanting to pet Marley which was a trend that would only escalate as the week went on.  It was a lot of fun.

If you are going to go in July or August, don’t go during the day.  Go early morning (before 8 a.m.) or in the evening (after 7:00 p.m.).  It is a way nicer hike on an empty trail.

Castle Mountain

After hiking up to Silverton Falls, we drove further down the Bow Valley Parkway until we got to the base of Castle Mountain and stopped at the site of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp used in World War I.  It’s not a proud part of Canada’s past.

Castle Mountain Internment Camp in Banff National Park

Life at the camp was brutal.  Rations were poor, abuse was widespread and some froze to death during the winters.  They were essentially used as slave labor to build the Banff National Park infrastructure.

From there we checked out the Castle Mountain lookout which had a Canadian Pacific rail line go by it.

Views of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National Park

I am not sure what happened here but both Mark and Oliver just stared for ages at Castle Mountain.  For Mark it was almost a spiritual experience.  Finally he goes, “So this is why you love the mountains.” 

Views of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National Park

Then as we were talking, you could hear the familiar sound of a eastbound Canadian Pacific train coming in the distance.

A Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkA Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkA Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkA Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkA Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkA Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National Park

Silverton Falls

On the second day there, we had planned to hike Johnston Canyon in the morning and then do Silverton Falls in the afternoon.  As Wendy blogged, I ran a high fever with an ankle feeling like it was going to snap for most of the trip.  She was exhausted as well so we slept in.  By the time we got up and going, the line to Johnston Canyon went a kilometre or so down the Bow Valley Parkway in each direction.  We hiked it last year and it was insanely packed with tourists.

Instead I drove down towards Castle Mountain and pulled into the parking lot for Rockbound Lake.  There is a short hike to Silverton Falls which I had never done and it looked like fun.  As we pulled into the parking lot, we met this camper from Wicked Campers.  The paintjob stood out just a little bit.

Wicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkWicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkWicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

With Mark turning 16, he is thinking of the kind of vehicle he wants, in part so he can travel with it.  We had a long discussion about GMC Safari’s and Chevy Astro vans on our way along the trail.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

After 400 metres or so, you come across this stream running down from the waterfall.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Then you start to climb up to the falls.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

A rockslide took a toll on the trail at this point.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Finally you get the falls which unlike Johnston Canyon, have no safety railings along the path.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

It’s a great view across the Bow Valley.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Finally it was back down the flank of Castle Mountain and back to the parking lot.  The hike is under a kilometre long and we met a total of 12 people on it which is far different then Johnston Canyon.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon Campground

Well we are back from vacation in Banff National Park and later Yoho National Park.   It was a great week but once that almost didn’t happen.  A few weeks ago they took me off my antibiotics because they thought they had killed the infection (again) and of course we know what happened.  In three days I was overwhelmed with fevers and extremely sick just before the holidays.  So I was back on my medication but it takes weeks for it to catch up to the infection.

The day  before we were to leave, I was really sick.  It had gotten worse and I was really suffering.  I went to be knowing that all I wanted was to sleep for the next week.

I got up early last Sunday and felt even worse.  I talked to Wendy and said that her and the boys should go without me.

They loaded the car and went to leave.  I had gotten some sleep and felt a little better. I didn’t feel strong enough to go but I had some food and talked it over with Wendy and decided to go.  I did warn her that I may do nothing more than sleep all week.  She was okay with that.

We had intended to leave Saskatoon, contact some friends and grab some coffee as we passed through town.  Now we left Saskatoon really late and it was going to be a rush to get to the campground before nightfall.

Sadly we were very  early onto a horrible motorcycle crash.  Guy on a road bike, wet highway, looks like he lost control.  When we got there, he was lying on the highway and being held down.  It was a horrible sight but ambulance was on route and First Responders were already there.

We rolled in Johnston Canyon Campground around 9:00 p.m. and Mark and I rushed to set up the tents.

This was Wendy’s and mine tent.  I know it’s massive.  It is an eight person tent that I picked up at Walmart a few years ago.  I am not a big fan of Walmart tents but I bought some Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof and applied it.  The SolarProof protects the tent from UV radiation at higher altitudes while making it waterproof.  We did get some heavy rain a few days and nights and we never had a leak all week.  .

Our tent at Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

The tent doesn’t come with a ground sheet.  So I decided to pick up some tarps.  I measured the tent spent $3 on tarps from Dollarama and used Gorilla Tape to fasten them together created one.  The ground sheet saves the bottom of the tent and acts as a bit of a vapor barrier between the tent and the ground.

A five person tent at Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

We had some tents already but my brother Lee gave this tent to us when he upgraded to a camper.  The 8 person tent served as home for Wendy and I while Mark and Oliver lived in the smaller five person tent.  It’s a three season tent with a big vestibule

Yes an eight person tent is too big for two people but one can stand up in it and there was room for our queen sized air mattress.  Since I had a dog sleeping in my arms every single night, all of the space we could get was needed.

I had purchased Wendy a hammock for Mother’s Day.  I gave strict orders to the boys that this was Wendy’s hammock.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

I had my hammock as well.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

According to this, I was late giving the edict that this was MY hammock.  By the time I went to lay in it, it had already been infested.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

This is Wendy getting everything set up.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

Something is wrong with this photo.  There are only three lawn chairs.  Obviously they were packed when I wasn’t planning to come out.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

Wendy had some help from Marley in setting things up.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

This is the view from the back of the campsite.  Just through the trees is the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway which thrilled all of us when it rolled through between five and ten times a day/night.  Some might have found it bothersome but we loved it.  The railway were such a big part of the story of Banff National Park, it was cool to hear them roll through, even if it didn’t make for the best alarm clock.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

I had originally wanted to stay in the Castle Mountain Campground because of it’s location but you can’t reserve there.  In hindsight staying in a place with a hot shower was the right decision.  The campground wasn’t that large and was extremely quiet.  We were surrounded by Americans and Europeans for most of it.  It was hectic in the morning as everyone got up and got going, then it was silent for for most of the day as everyone was gone.  It got slightly busier at night but mostly people flaked out after a long day of hiking.  There were two cycling clubs there who were working out together in the mountains all day long.  Most of the noise was people slowly cycling by.  If you are looking for a nice campground, this is it.

Review of the 2016 Ford Flex

Ford CanadaA 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.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

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.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

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.

At least the 2016 Ford Flex looks stylish

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

We took the car to Prince Albert National Park where we intended to hike the trail along Kingsmere Lake to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

My sherpa, I mean my son loads the gear in the 2016 Ford Flex

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.

Marley and her backpack

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.

LT's Food and Fuel near Prince Albert Provincial Park

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

On being a dad (and hiking with kids)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Short Disclaimer

Some of you have asked if I am helping with any political campaigns in the municipal election.  The answer is no.  I did no work on campaigns in the provincial or federal election either.

I will let you know that Wendy and I are friends with a few candidates and councilors like Jeff Jackson and Zach Jeffries.  I have hundreds if not thousands of political discussions over the last five or six years with them, often mocking and criticizing them.  I have called out Zach in columns and in the blog and I think I have been fair when I have done it.  I can tell you that I have never pulled a punch or a criticism of a politician because of a friendship and that has ended some friendship (which sucks by the way).

If Jeff wins, I can’t promise to call him out but if he does anything stupid or against the interests of the city, I most definitely will call him out on it somewhere.  He knows that and I am sure will tell me how wrong I am at a high volume when I do.

Some ask me if that influences what I write about.  Yes and no.  No in the sense that they don’t give me direction on what to write about.  Yes in that some of them are also reading and researching aspects of urban life and they bring up some interesting idea of policy being looked at or implemented somewhere, I read it and research it myself.  It’s just nerds sharing ideas on urbanism and cities. 

Wendy and I are both friends with Councilor Pat Lorje.  Both Mark and Oliver would consider her a friend as well.  Now that I think about it, most of our conversations have to do politics outside of Saskatoon.  American politics and even some Spanish discussions.  She also has given Wendy and I some solid parenting advice which we appreciate.  For those of you who follow my writing, you know that Councilor Lorje and I are on the opposite sides of some issues that both of us feel quite strongly about.  She has gone to great extent to telling me how wrong I was on columns in the past and I assure you she will in the future.

I also have a good working and personal relationship with Councilor Darren Hill.  We have grabbed the occasional drink over the years and mostly discussed issues relating the ward and city.  Most of those were constituent – councilor conversations but like all of politicos we do talk politics.  We also have disagreed on things over the years.  I have endorsed him the last two campaigns.  I may or may not this one but I think it is fair to Darren and anyone who is running against him to wait and see campaign platforms before I endorse.

Wendy and I both get along with socially with some other councilors.  I don’t offer up that much in policy suggestions but if I have read something similar to what they are musing about, I tend to fire them off some things.

Before you accuse me of being too close to council, let’s recall they hired a RCMP investigator to investigate non-existent leaks to me.   I also think as a group they collectively are one of the worst city councils in Canada.  Some of them have personally expressed their contempt and hatred of me in person and in writing.   I try not to take it personally.

Those of you who have seen me having a drink or a coffee with a politician need to know this, they aren’t asking me for advice and if they are good at what they do, they ignore any advice they give them.  I don’t care about the political process which is bad for a politician in an election year.  I am not a strategist, a tactician, or anything else.  I am a friend and a pundit but I tend to stay out of it during campaigns other than listen to funny door-knocking stories. 

If you have any thoughts or concerns about my objectivity, let me know.  I’d love to hear them.

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.

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.