Tag Archives: Wendy Cooper

Mud Creek Trail

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

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

Mud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National Park

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

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

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

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada in Banff National Park

We used to come to Cave & Basin National Historic site quite a bit when I was a kid.  It wasn’t as big of deal back then and it was much more poorly lit as you entered the Cave part (which I loved).  So having not been there since 1983, it was nice to head back and see what has changed.  Of course taking the boys back here was great and they enjoyed it quite a bit. 

After the crowds of Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon, a quieter venue was a great way to kill an hour or so while the boys learned about the history of the place and it’s roll in the founding of our National Parks.

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

So this is the cave part of Cave and Basin.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

It used to be a hot springs where people would come from all over to bathe in.  Those days are long gone but Parks Canada has recreated the bath area of the hot springs.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

Two of Parks Canada famed red chairs were waiting for me to sit down and relax in.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

This is the basin part of the Cave and Basin.  There are endangered Banff snails in there and the smell is quite sulfur-ish.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaIMGP0463The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

It’s Batman and Wendy exploring the lower levels.  Mark and I were enjoying a cool breeze on the upper deck.The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of CanadaThe Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

The green roof of the Parks Canada gift shop which has an assortment of Parks Canada and Banff gear that you won’t see anywhere else in the town of Banff.  It alone is worth checking out.

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada

If for some reason you want to see some more photos of Cave and Basins National Historic site, check out my album on Flickr.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

While in Banff National Park, Wendy and I took the boys up to Johnston Canyon which was insanely busy.  The parking lot was packed and by the time we left, people were parking over a kilometre in both ways down the Bow Valley Parkway.   We had plans to take the boys to the upper waterfalls.

So as the sign says, it is a 1 km hike to the first falls.  Yet when I started the Map My Hike app on my iPhone, it said that it was 4k with a return hike. 

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

I think I have met these three people before.

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

They enjoyed the walk.  They weren’t tired but the progress was at a standstill because there was a group taking selfie’s up ahead.

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

This is my favorite shot from the hike.

The hike along Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

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

A Parks Canada employee has what looks to be a long and wet day ahead of him.

Parks Canada employee preparing for what looks to be a long days work at Johnston Canyon in Prince Albert National Park

IMGP0396Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

This is the legendary lower falls of Johnston Canyon.  We had planned to go to the upper falls but as the photos show, the crowds were brutal and the antibiotics I had to deal with the infection in my ankle hadn’t beaten the infection back very far.  Combined it meant that it would be a long hike and since we are coming back next summer to hike to the inkpots, it wasn’t a big deal to call it a day and dodge the selfie sticks back to the car.

Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

I think we can all agree that I nailed this picture of a chipmunk.

 Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

Did I mention that the trail was packed.  This is the main reason why we didn’t go to the second falls.  So many people (and my ankle was really hurting me).  Also, most of the people we passed on the trail were looking at their phones.  Apparently world class scenery and nature doesn’t compete well with Angry Birds.

 Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park Johnston Canyon hike in Banff National Park

If you want to see more photos from Johnston Canyon, check out the full set on Flickr.

Sawback

Sawback is a small picnic area on the Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and Johnston Canyon.  It used to be small and has gotten smaller since Parks Canada has moved the tables near to the roadside turn off and allowed the vegetation to take over old picnic areas.

Growing up, it was my favorite place in the world.  We used to take a yearly trip from Calgary (and later Saskatoon) to Johnston Canyon and then picnic at Sawback.  I was looking forward to taking the boys there and was quite disappointed when all there was left was some picnic tables near the parking lot.

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It wasn’t the picnic areas that make it so great, it was the babbling brook of glacier runoff that make it so much fun to explore as a kid.  I knew that didn’t go anywhere so I followed an overgrown trail into the bush and 50 feet into it I found the brook.

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Mark and Oliver did exactly what I did year ago and this jump across it and get all wet.

Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkMark and Oliver at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkMark and Oliver at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

This shot was right after I had scolded the boys about making faces every time I tried to take their photo. 

Mark and Oliver at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

So while the picnic tables placement kind of sucks, we will return in 2016 with a proper picnic blanket and food.

Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkWendy at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkA forced family photo at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

I told Mark that there is a sacred Cooper tradition of dunking one’s head into the glacier water that ran out of the Sawback mountain range.  He put his hands in, screamed from the cold…

Mark dunking his head into freezing glacier water at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National ParkMark dunking his head into freezing glacier water at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

 

And dunked his head into it.

Mark dunking his head into freezing glacier water at the Sawback Picnic area in Banff National Park

After he got out and was struggling with hypothermia did I tell him that he was the first of the Cooper’s to do such a thing.  Yes, I am a horrible father.

All of the snapshots I took at Sawback can be found in their album on Flickr.

The Rockies

Another obscenely early morning around here.  Wendy posted late last night about the trip out here.

I am waiting for the crew to get ready before we head downstairs to grab breakfast and then hit the road to Banff National Park today.  We are taking the old highway through Cochrane along a winding road to Canmore.   From there we will make a quick detour into Banff for some fresh bread and food before heading to Johnston Canyon where will hike the trail to the second large waterfall.  It isn’t so much of a hike then a stroll.  It’s also a great place to people watch as there are tourists from all over the globe there and they are fascinated by a lot of things (like squirrels) that we find mundane.

From there we are heading to a picnic area called Sawback where we will have a quick picnic lunch, then proceed up the Bow Valley Parkway until we get to Lake Louise.  Along the way we are checking out a campground that we plan to stay at next year.  It looks good online but it’s always nice to see it first hand.

After we explore the Chateau Lake Louise, we are heading back to Banff where the Banff Gondola and Cave and Basin National Historic site wait for us.  After dinner the plan is to see the Bow Falls chill out (or warm up) in the Upper Banff Hot Springs before heading back to Calgary.

The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is one of my favourite spots on earth.  I loved going there as a kid and I can’t wait until I can show Wendy, Mark, and Oliver the site.  As for the Chateau Lake Louise, it was there that I proposed to Wendy so it will be fun heading back there.

Things I Think I Know

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

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

Knife Fight

I use a knife at work and for months, I have used a Strider folding knife.  Strider makes knives for Seal Team 6 and they are really, really nice knives.  This one is smaller but still looks intimidating which isn’t the look I was going for. 

I found a Gerber Rip Stop knife and I decided to get it but Wendy said that the boys would want to get it for Father’s Day.  So instead of letting me have it, she got me a $3 knife from Wal-Mart.

I had it with me and never really used it until one day it wouldn’t even cut through tape.  It was that bad.  Mark found out and starts to re-inact a potential 911 call.

Mark: Help, I am being attacked by my knife wielding lunatic father.

Operator: Are you hurt?

Mark: Well kind of.  He has jabbed me several times and I am starting to get a rash.

Operator: I hasn’t broken the skin?

Mark: No but a couple more days of this and I could get a callous or something.  Maybe a minor infection.

Operator: All the police are busy but I can send a dermatologist early next week….

The knife was that bad.   So finally I get the Gerber Ripstop and the first thing I test is that it can cut Scotch tape.  So at least I am making progress.  It also doesn’t look intimidating  So we are winning in that way as well.

Father’s Day

It was a weird day around here today.  Wendy’s father is dying of cancer.  While they used to be close, he has been horrible to her from the night she told him that she had been molested as a child.  He changed that night and has been horrible to her ever since.

In hindsight if he had said to her that he never wanted to ever talk to her and owned that, it would have been easier but no, her mom has tried to work things out while at the same time blaming Wendy ever since then.  With him dying he wanted to see Wendy (just Wendy, not Mark and Oliver) one last time.  Wendy said no and he kind of burnt every bridge remaining.  Well not that there were not burnt bridges left but he knocked over the piers as well.

It’s really tough on her.  They used to be close.  She thought of him as a friend.  Over the years her mother has been clueless on everything while at least her dad understood some of what she was going through, he would then be cruel while fully understanding what he was doing.  In many ways he hurt her more than the people who molested her did.

So every Father’s Day I get the full brunt of all of that emotion and anger that Wendy feels towards her father.  It just spills out.  Today was no exception except that it had all of the emotion of her being upset that I was sick as well.

Today I had big plans.  The infection in my leg plays havoc on my blood sugar levels.  That makes me really tired so the plan was to go to bed early last night and sleep in today.  However everyone was upset at that plan and was somehow mad that I went to bed early (except the dog) and early this morning they were upset that I was still sleeping.  That was the start of my day.

Another transition in the house is that I am no longer making everyone get ready.  I am frustrated with having to get Wendy and Mark moving out the door every time that I have calmly told them that I am going to give them an itinerary and if they aren’t going to be ready to leave on time, I will leave them behind.

So Friday I let them know that I had tickets to the Saskatoon Valkyries game and that I would leave for Gordie Howe Bowl at 12:30p.  No one was even close to ready.  So I left without them.  That upset everyone even more and made them even more emotional and upset.

I come home and lay down because the last thing I should have done is sit on a bleacher and watch a football game today and waited until my foot had returned to normal.  Again, that caused more anxiety because I wasn’t having fun. 

This kind of anxiety just freezes Wendy and Mark.   Wendy doesn’t know what to do and just introverts everything until she explodes.  Mark is processing this too and doesn’t know what to do. 

So finally I send all three of them out of the house to go for dinner.  The silence was awesome and I got some reading and writing done.

In some ways it is easy for me to deal with things because I have been down this road before with my mom and I know whatever happens, happens.  The doctors will make emergency referrals and do emergency tests and then two months later I will see the specialist I should have seen a month ago.  It’s the Saskatchewan way.  You may die because of how slow our system is but you won’t have to pay for it (somewhere right now Brad Wall is preparing a bar graph that shows less people dying or losing their legs while on a waiting list then under the NDP).

In Wendy’s defense, she had good care when she was really sick.  She has sat there while angry nurses have gotten angry at me because tests haven’t been done yet and have had them say, “Doesn’t anyone realize how serious this is?”  Last time I said, “think of the greater good.”  It didn’t go over well.

In the end, Father’s Day is a difficult day for Wendy.  That makes it a confusing day every year for the boys. 

One of these years we will have a nice Father’s Day.

The Gift of Green Nature Trail in Pike Lake Provincial Park

For Oliver’s Birthday, we went and hiked the Gift of Green Nature Trail in Pike Lake Provincial Park.   The nature trail starts at the interpretive centre located beside the campground office.  The nature trail follows a 1.5 km loop and winds through an aspen woodland, a swamp, over shortgrass prairie and across sand dunes.

The Gift of Green Nature Trail in Pike Lake Provincial Park

The Gift of Green Nature Trail in Pike Lake Provincial Park

The Gift of Green Nature Trail in Pike Lake Provincial Park

The Gift of Green Nature Trail in Pike Lake Provincial Park

The Gift of Green Nature Trail in Pike Lake Provincial Park

The Gift of Green Nature Trail in Pike Lake Provincial Park

We walked in the late afternoon and it was a great trail to walk.  Pike Lake has gotten a lot nicer in the last several years and this is a great addition to the park.

Happy Birthday Oliver

Oliver turns 7 today which means he was up early opening his birthday gifts and basically celebrating his day.

We picked him up a moon chair.  He thinks it is so awesome that he is worried that we will all be jealous because our chairs aren’t as cool as his.  Not sure he has to be worried but I am glad he likes it.

We had picked up three 1 litre Nalgene water bottles for Wendy, Mark and I.  Oliver was less then thrilled he didn’t get one.  I picked up a 500 ml bottle for him at Atmosphere so now he is thrilled.  We also got him a fanny pack because a) he wanted one b) I will mock him about it for his entire life. 

We also got him an Avenger’s book, a Saskatchewan Roughriders jersey, a hacky sack, and a headlamp.

Tonight, we are off to Pike Lake for a hike and then back for late evening pizza and cake. 

Marley

Mark and Marley

I haven’t really written about Marley since we got her on my birthday.  So here we are in June so I thought I would give that of you who care about dogs an update.

The first few days at home were rough.  She bit.  A lot.  My hands, face, elbows, knees, legs, side.  You name it, she bit it.  She just led with her teeth and my pain was real.  I wasn’t alone, she was biting Wendy, Oliver, and Mark.  She also bit Hutch a lot who took it even worse than we did.

Eventually she stopped ramming us with her teeth and then we only had to put up with her chewing up stuff, biting Hutch, jumping up on us, jumping through the air to get to people food, and kicking me in the face as a I slept.   We have most of the stuff resolved but every morning she gets into bed between Wendy and I and kicks one or both of us in the face while she sleeps on her back.

It has been a harder adjustment for Wendy.  She has never had a puppy before.  It was always been dogs two years of age or older.  Having a rambunctious, defiant, and rowdy teenager for a dog has been an experience for her.  One that she is still figuring out.

With the biting stopped, the boys, especially Oliver were able to bond with her.  Elway was my dog who didn’t even acknowledge Mark was alive.  Maggi was also my dog who acknowledged the boys were alive but saw them more as staff than as equals.  Actually to be honest, she saw Wendy as staff as well.

Marley has become my dog too but sees Oliver and Mark as co-conspirators in her fun rather than staff.  Wendy and I are the parents.  I just happen to be the parent that gives her pieces of steak when Wendy says no.

I find new dogs are weird.  When Elway died of cancer, I never wanted a dog again.  When we got Maggi all I could think of for the first couple of weeks was that she wasn’t as good of dog as Elway.  Within a couple of years she had become my best friend and confident. 

When Maggi died of cancer, I was devastated.  She had been such a big part of the family.  Now there is Marley who isn’t Elway or Maggi but we are slowly figuring each other out and bonding over our hatred of the crow that perches outside our window and makes a lot of noise at 3 a.m.

So like a lot of puppies she goes all out all of the time.  After an epic battle today with her rope and a long walk with Mark, she is curled up in a ball beside Wendy saving her energy for attacking me and kicking me in the head at around 5:00 a.m. because she needs her tummy rubbed before going back to bed.

When Caesar Milan says never let your dog sleep on the bed, always let them sleep on your bed.

So this is how it all ends

Tomorrow I am off to Prince Albert National Park to explore the Mud Creek Trail (and some others) with Wendy, Mark, and Oliver.

It is a great trail to explore during the spring because of the high number of hungry black bears who feed on the fish in the stream.

Hungry black bears, a wound on my foot and a messed up ankle.  What could go wrong?

We are also up there celebrating Mark’s birthday (he turns 15 next week).  That birthday brings up the awkward conversations around learners license and driving.  As I told Mark, first let’s survive a bunch of black bears and then we can talk.

So… if is this blog and my Twitter go silent over the next couple of weeks, you know what happened.

If I had only picked up one of these.

Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies

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

Don't Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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