From personal

Next summer

After a lot of debate and discussion, we are going to spend our summer vacation in Banff National Park exploring the trails and hidden lakes around Banff and Lake Louise.

Our home base will the Castle Mountain Campground.  It’s in the shadow of the Castle Mountain and the Main Range of mountains.  We scouted it out last week and it is gorgeous.  We have our 8 person and two room tent for Jordon, Marley and I.  Mark and Oliver have a 5 person tent they are sharing.   Well, we will see how that turns out.

The plan is to drive from Saskatoon to Calgary on July 3rd and spend the night at the Best Western Calgary Centre.  We have stayed there twice before and liked it.  Then on Monday morning we will head up to Banff National Park and make camp.  Since we are camping in the middle of bear country, our food will be in a food locker.

After that is done, we will drive back down the Bow Valley Parkway and hike Johnston Canyon past the lower and higher falls before pressing on unto the ink pots.  In the afternoon we will explore the nearby Silverton waterfall, a little known but really high waterfall near Castle Mountain.

Tuesday we will  start out with a trip to the Lake Agnes Tea House at Lake Louise.  It’s a short hike but it will be a long day before we head back to the campground.   Since we are up in the area, the afternoon will be spent hiking around Moraine Lake.

Wednesday we are heading up our first mountain.  In fact, it’s the only urban mountain that I know of; Tunnel Mountain.  Then we will take the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain.   I am not worried about Marley on the hikes but  I am worried about her on a gondola.  Since there is no showers in the campground, we are going to shower and chill out in the Banff Hot Springs.  We will also resupply our food stocks at the Safeway in Banff.

Thursday, we are heading up to the Plains of Six Glaciers Tea House.  That is a long hike, lots of elevation and a long day.

Friday we are undecided about which hike to try.  Since there is a lot of time between then and now, we will decide.

Saturday we are breaking camp and then driving 70 km past Lake Louise where we are hiking to Glacier Lake.

The hike to Glacier Lake and it’s backcountry campground is considered easy to moderate.   It is approximately 18Km return with a total elevation gain of 400m, allow 5-6 hours return.

At about 1 Km you will reach the foot bridge that crosses the North Saskatchewan River. Cross the bridge and continue on another 1.2Km until you reach the Howse River View Point. Interesting to note that David Thompson who led a group of fur traders camped at this spot for several days in 1807.  From this viewpoint you can see Howse Pass, Mount Murchison, Mount Outram, the Sir James Glacier and the beautifully colored Howse River.

Follow the trail to your right (west) as it drops down towards the river. The trail meanders upstream along the bank of the Howes River for another 2Km or so then enters a lush spruce, fir and pine forest.  In approximately 4.5km you’ll reach a sign that points towards the Glacier Lake Campground.

The trail splits here towards Glacier Lake and the dangerous Howes River crossing that joins the historic Howse Pass Trail. From this sign it is a short distance down to Glacier Lake. Glacier Lake is the fourth largest lake in Banff National Park. It is 4.6Km long and .9Km wide. The lake is fed from the massive Lyell Glacier that is 8.5Km west of here.

We plan to camp overnight and return in the morning.  Once we get back on Sunday, we will grab a shower and then head back to Saskatoon.

How the West was Once

Yesterday we got up early and headed to Heritage Park for the opening of the park at 9:30 a.m.  We parked and after paying $1 each, we took a restored Calgary Municipal Street Car into the Historical Village where we did some scouting out of the shopping.  Oliver was asked to blow the street car’s whistle so he was thrilled and after getting to the main entrance he goes, “there’s more?”.

Oliver and Mark riding the Calgary Municipal Streetcar into Heritage Park

We then headed into Gasoline Alley where we checked out a series of old historic cars and a restored gas station.

Gasoline Alley in Calgary's Heritage Park

Inside Gasoline Alley in Calgary's Heritage Park

After heading into the main park, we immediately got into a steam powered locomotive at Midnapore Station to Shepard Station that took us to the back of the park.

Conductor on the train

From there we took the replica paddlewheeler out into Glenmore Reservoir where we watched some rowing and sailing races.  The breeze just about froze me to death but Jordon and Mark found it refreshing so I used Jordon as a wind break.

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Picnic on the shore of Glenmore Resovoir in Calgary

Sailing boats in Calgary's Glenmore Resovoir

From there we checked out the old midway where Oliver and Mark went on the Caterpillar.  As it was going Jordon read the sign that says that it was super popular for dating couples to go on because once the top closed, there was no telling what was happening.  Mark got off the ride with a “you’ve got to be kidding me look on his face”.

Then it was off to the old Vulcan Ice Cream Parlour and explored the rest of Main Street.  I wandered into the old Gledhill’s Drugstore which used to be in Dundurn and later Hanley.  I bought Jordon and old retro camera and typewriter poster sized advertisements.  Mark wanted one of the camera as well. 

Main Street in Calgary's Heritage Park

Some street performers in Calgary's Heritage Park

I hit up the bakery, checked out an wooden oil rig, and road the train to different parts of the park.

Finally it was time to go and we picked up a couple of things at the gift shops in the entrance to the park.  Mark wanted a poster that showed the history of Canadian aviation.  I got a print of an early advertisement for CP Rail and the Chateau Laurier. 

Vintage CP Rail Advertisemtent for Lake Louise

Shepard Station in Heritage Park

In the end, I had no idea what to expect from Heritage Park but I really, really enjoyed it.  If you have never checked it out, add it to your list of things to visit in Calgary.  It’s well worth the money and the day we spent there.

Exploring Banff National Park

Good morning!

I am sleeping in today.  After two straight days of being up at 5:30 a.m., we get to sleep into 7:30 a.m. today.

We took the old highway to Banff which is a long and winding highway through Cochrane and some of the most amazing scenery ever.  It’s one of our favorite drives.

Calgary to Johnston's Canyon Map

The morning got off with a hitch when I forgot jackets for Jordon and I.  So I went into Safeway in Banff while Jordon and Mark went shopping for a hoodie for Jordon and I.  Jordon never found one he liked (and he never minds the cold like I do) but they found one for me.  It is great and  I was glad I got it.

Me in my Banff National Park hoodie

We drove up the Bow Valley Parkway and got into Johnston’s Canyon early and started to hike along the amazing path.   The parking lot was packed like I had never seen it before.  We started out and it was slow walking along the path.  Jordon used the Map My Hike app and it said that we averaged 15 minutes a kilometre.  It was frustrating.  So many tourists and they were a) either taking selphy’s or texting.  I lost a lot of faith in humanity. 

The start of the hike up Johnston's Canyon in Banff National Park

Johnston's Canyon in Banff National Park

Waterfall in Johnston's Canyon in Banff National Park

Johnston's Canyon in Banff National Park

The first big waterfall at Johnston's Canyon in Banff National Park

We had plans to go to the second water falls but it had rained the night before and Jordon should not have been hiking up that trail with his ankle and foot the way it was.   It had rained the night before and the trail was really slick.  It wasn’t good for his leg or hip and instead of pushing it too far, we made the decision to do the entire path next year.

After heading back to the car, we got in and checked out the Castle Mountain Campground where we plan to camp next summer for a week.   I’ll be honest, I had looked at the campground website and didn’t pay that close of attention.  When I didn’t notice any showers or washrooms, I kind of freaked.  After being assured that there is washrooms (but no showers), I was okay with it.

After that we pushed up the Bow Valley Parkway while keeping a lookout for black and grizzly bears, moose, and all sorts of elk.

Banff to Lake Louise

We got to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (where Jordon asked me to marry him).

Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park

We had planned to hike a bit but the parking was backed up down the mountain.  People were also parked 11km AWAY from Moraine Lake.  It was insane how much traffic there was.  We have always gone later in the season and have never had to experience the insanity of peak season.

After that we went back down the Bow Valley Parkway and stopped at a picnic area called Sawback.

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Sawback had changed from when Jordon first took me there.  It was a childhood favorite spot of Jordon’s and here it was totally changed.  I was kind of frustrating but Jordon wandered into the bush and we followed him.   He came across the most amazing babbling brook (which is why he loved it).   The picnic tables had moved but the brook was right where it had always been.   I was happy to be there but sad that Jordon’s mom wasn’t.  She would have loved to have shared that spot with her grandkids.

Mark dipping his head into a glacier fed stream

Jordon and Mark dunking Oliver into the stream

Jordon has some hilarious stories of falling in to the brook and then drinking from it (he got sick).  Mark decided to dip his head into it the brook.  He places his hands into the ice cold glacier water and almost died.  He did soak his head and kind of suffered from immediate hypothermia.

Back in Banff, we did visit the Bow Falls where not only Mark dunked himself but so did Oliver.   Learning from experience is not their strong suit. 

Then it was time to head over to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.  I had never been there before but Jordon grew up going to it and was really looking forward to us seeing the site.  It had changed a lot since he was last there but we had fun.  They had a contest for the kids on who could do the most activities there so Oliver was all over the place.  

Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff National Park

We did do some shopping but I realized by the limp that Jordon had, it was time to head back.  Oliver bought an elastic band gun while Jordon bought me some moose shaped ear rings. 

Then it was back to Calgary.  We took Highway 1 back into the city and found ourselves back into the hotel exhausted.  As the boys went to bed, Jordon and I went back down to the hotel pool.

Today we are off to Heritage Park and see how the west was once.  Neither the boys or myself have never been so we are really looking forward to checking it out.

We are in Calgary

We are in Calgary right now and staying in the Best Western Plus Calgary Centre hotel.  Here is how we got here.

This morning at 5:50 a.m. we got up, drove to Tim Horton’s for some mocha chinos.  After caffeinating up (and listening to Jordon complain about Tim Horton’s coffee), we left Saskatoon and were on the Saskatchewan Highway 7 through Rosetown, Kindersley & Alsask by 5:00 a.m.  We then met Alberta Highway 9 which took us through Oyen, Hanna, and Drumheller

The Drive from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Calgary, Alberta

Unlike previous trips to Calgary which generally start with a greasy Egg McMuffin breakfast at McDonald’s on 22nd (and followed by stomach ache until Hanna), I made a healthy breakfast, made fresh coffee and tea, and basically did a much better job of planning. 

The boys were fine.  They both have go-bags, inspired by Lifehacker.  In Oliver’s bag was his Nintendo DS, binoculars, an iPod and headphones, a new book to read, his flashlight, camera, water bottle, and a notebook and pen.  He was good the entire trip, even when his DS ran out of battery life.

Mark’s bag included his tablet,  headphones, flashlight, water bottle, his Fujifilm Finepix XP20 camera, his phone, GPS, tablet, monocular, a notebook, pen, book, and a copy of Outside Magazine.

Jordon and I have them as well.  Mine included my iPod, headphones, flashlight, binoculars, book, magazine, pens, iPad and a notebook.  Jordon’s was similar but like Mark, he has a monocular.  It really makes travelling a lot easier.  For loading the car yesterday, we had two duffle bags, three camera bags, a small cooler with cold drinks and the four go-bags.  Other than coffee mugs this morning, everything was ready to go.

We stopped at Drumheller to let Oliver take a run in the padding pool and for Mark and Oliver to run up the dinosaur’s butt.  When we went through three years ago, Oliver took a look at the giant T-Rex and realized that those stairs went “up his butt” and immediately had second thoughts.  Since then has become more comfortable with the idea.

The break was good for both Mark and Oliver.  Jordon was thinking ahead and had Oliver travel in his swimming trunks.  After he dried off, we pushed onto Horseshoe Canyon where we stopped again and took some photos and let the boys take it in.

After that it was on to Calgary.

Best Western Plus Calgary CentreWe had timed the trip to be both leisurely (which it was) and to coincide with us arriving in Calgary in time to check in at the hotel.  After talking our stuff inside (camera and duffle bags), we took the LRT from the hotel to downtown.

We were checking out MEC and The Camera Store when Jordon got a DM from Dave King asking if we had supper plans.  We did not so we met him at The King and I, a Thai restaurant in downtown Calgary.  The food and service were amazing.

We walked with Dave back to the the Calgary Tower.  Oliver loves the Calgary Tower more than anywhere else and he still thinks it was amazing.  It was incredibly busy but we walked around, tempted fate by standing on the glass floor and then made our way to The Bow.

The Bow was amazing.  I could have stood in that square all day long taking photos and just taking it in.

We were going to go to the Peace Bridge but Oliver was melting down.  He had been up since 5 a.m., didn’t sleep for a second on the trip and had nothing left.  So we took the CTrain back to the hotel and let the boys wind down after a long day.

We will head back downtown to explore The Bow and the Peace Bridge early on Sunday morning before we go to the Calgary Zoo.

End of the school year

Well Mark and Oliver finished off another school year.

Oliver is finished grade 1 and did really well.  His report card was good although he made the classic mistake of not reading it before he came home.  Mark and Jordon told him that he failed gym which is his worst nightmare.  The kid takes a lot of pride in his effort he puts into gym everyday.  So after he told the truth that a) he passed gym and b) he is not a slow runner; things were fine.

Mark had a horrible first semester of the school year and dug himself a massive hole for math.  He managed to dig himself out of it by hard work and a lot of yelling by both Jordon and I but it wasn’t easy.  His grades were better in the second semester but the consensus was that he underachieved.  So he has a lot of work to do this summer.

He is also taking both apprentice math in the first semester and will take the advanced math in the second semester.  As Jordon said, “It’s like you have pre-failed math and have to take it again”.  Mark wasn’t happy with that but if it gets him into university it will be worth it.

We took the boys out for dinner last night and gave them a couple of things for the summer.  Mark was given a new Captain America shirt and a monopod for his camera while Oliver was given a Saskatchewan Roughriders shirt and Coleman watch.  They were both thrilled.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day is complicated for me personally and it’s not a day I enjoy.

My father has two distinct personalities.  At times he can be loving, funny, and caring.  The other personality he embraces is cruel, mean, and destructive.  I have seen both in my life although for the last 18 years, it has primarily been the cruel, mean, dishonest and destructive side of him.

It’s easy to say that the problems started the night I told him and my mother that I had been molested.  He used to talk to my three times a week after moving to Saskatoon.  Then he just stopped talking to me for months.  Not a call, email, or letter.  Nothing.  It was like he no longer had a daughter.  That being said, my mother went silent at the same time.  It was really tough to take.

From there it go worse.  He started to lie about thing and then he would defend his right to lie.  Then he would be upset when I no longer trusted him.  He would scream that he wished I had never been born.  He would go on about how I wasn’t part of his family.

Later when Mark was two, he saw Mark for the first time.  He then told me he didn’t want a relationship with me or Mark because he had other grandkids and didn’t need another one.  He then stopped talking to me for almost a decade.  He’s seen Mark twice, never met Oliver.  He didn’t even know how old the kids were.

Recently he blamed me for being molested, backtracked on it when I called him on it, then said it again.

In the end, things will never get better between us because he has never done anything wrong and it is my fault.

Why is he like that.  We have never been able to have that conversation.  There is a lot of research and writing on Guyana where he grew up that shows that as a country, that are ambivalent and hostile to women who are sexually assaulted and are victims of sexual violence.  My mother told me that she was taught (and would teach me) that it was the women’s fault when she is raped for dressing too provocatively and “inviting it”.  Which when you look at my parents reaction, that is exactly what their reaction was.  Its up to me to make amends for being repeatedly sexually assaulted.

If anything, I wish he would be honest with others about how he feels about me.  It is really hard to hear his b.s. and then get lectured by someone from the church I grew up in about how much it hurts him that I don’t ever come back home or how horrible of daughter I am.  Many people have told me that they pray that I can find the strength to leave Jordon and come back home.  He’s always the victim and I am the one at fault.

In the end I take it out on Jordon on Father’s Day.  He is sick with the growing infection in his ankle.  He came home from work yesterday in a lot of pain, went to lay down exhausted and I kind of freaked out.  Twice when he has been hospitalized he sent me home from the E.R. because I get emotional and start picking fights with him when he is sick.  I did it again last night and then today.  Of course I never get him anything for Father’s Day or do anything other than threaten to leave on Father’s Day.

Today instead of letting Jordon sleep in, I woke up and picked a fight largely because the idea of him having his leg amputated scares me.  To his credit, Jordon just went back to sleep but then I was an ass all day to him.  Instead of doing something special, Mark and I just wandered around in a bad mood until finally Jordon kicked all of us out of the house and made us go for dinner without him.  It was that kind of day.

So yeah, I really hate Father’s Day.

Life on the home front

I haven’t posted a lot lately but here is the latest in what is new on the home front.

  • Jordon’s leg keeps getting better and worse.  The ulcer on the bottom of his foot is getting better.  Originally he was supposed to go to the wound clinic daily several times a week but he would show up there every time with a different bandage on him as he showers at least once a day.  So they started sending him home with stuff and he changes the dressing as he needs to.  Anyways it is healing.
  • The bad part is the ankle and foot remain horribly swollen and painful.  Antibiotics aren’t doing anything although now they are wondering if it is a vascular problem.  So another specialist awaits.
  • After a whole semester of refusing to work hard, Mark has finally figured out how to work consistently hard at school and his grades are greatly improving.  That has been a big deal for all of us.  The one thing that he has never been taught is how to write.  Jordon has taught him this year the Anne Lamottmethod of writing.  A crappy first draft.  Fix the first draft in your second draft.  Then refine the second draft with your final draft.  It has made a big difference for him.
  • My father has advanced cancer.   Our relationship fell apart the night I told him I had been molested growing up.  He went from being caring and loving to despising me that night.  He has later put the blame on me for it happening.  It’s a weird thing to go through.  On one hand he is my father and we used to be close.  On the other hand he has become a mean and abusive person to me as I have become an adult.  He doesn’t know the boys and don’t know him at all.  He doesn’t like Jordon and he doesn’t like me either.  Yet at the same time for much of my life, he was a really good father and friend.   It’s been 17 years since we have had a relationship.  With the things the way they are and have been for years, I decided not to see him whatever the outcome.  It’s like the good person I called ‘Dad’ 17 years ago.  I wish Mark and Oliver could have gotten to know either one of my parents and extended family.  I don’t think that will ever happen. 
  • The doctor says that Jordon can carefully consider going up to Grey Owl’s Cabin in under two weeks.  We are going to evaluate how he feels as we go but I hope we can.  I am out buying the last of what we need (Gorilla Tape to Go, Zip Loc bags for meals and a couple of compression straps for the sleeping bags).  We also decided to take Marley with us on the hike.
  • My garden is in.  With Jordon sidelined for part of the spring, Mark and I have been doing some stuff we should have been doing for year.  One of them was build a second raised flower bed.  I now have two 8 foot by 4 foot gardens which is nothing compared to most of you but I am impressed that I have been able to keep up.  I procrastinated this year and didn’t start tomatoes which made me sad but it’s my own fault.
  • One of our juniper’s died over the winter (a moment of silence please) and Mark and I had to pull it out this weekend.  We pulled and pulled and cut and dug and pulled and finally we gave up.  Then Jordon chided Mark for being a wimp and then Mark got it out.  Let’s blame Mark for this.
  • Don’s Photo has a list of top Father’s Day gift ideas.  I need to get on this.
  • CCM rooftop bag and universal mounting kitI just discovered this rooftop bag by CCMwhich makes summer travelling way easier.  It is $700 for a Thule box and bars while it is $80 for one of these.
  • In two months we will be Calgary and Banff.  I can’t wait.  We already have a week of camping planned for 2016.  That will include an overnight hike to Glacier Lake, climbing Tunnel Mountain, hiking to the Inkpots at Johnston’s Canyon, and hiking to the Six Glacier, and Lake Agnes Tea Houses with the boys.
  • I am on Pinterest.  You can find my boards here.

Mark is 15

Mark turns 15 today.  For his birthday Jordon got him a stove and fuel canister.  Since he is a teen and therefore occasionally clumsy, we also gave him a Jet Boil stand for his canister and stove.  It makes the base wider and less likely to hurt himself.

Ultralight Backpacking Canister Camp Stove with Piezo Ignition 3.9oz

and a one person mess kit.  If he is going to have a stove, he will want to cook up something.  We tossed in a pot scrubber so he can do his own dishes.  Mark instantly realized what that mean for him and was more than a little sad.

One Person Mess Kit

Those (along with a lighter) were his early gifts as we went to Prince Albert National Park on Sunday for a day of hiking (we hiked the Narrows and Waskesiu River trails before Oliver ran out of gas) and photography.

This morning we got up early and Jordon and I got him an Altec Lansing Soundblade Bluetooth Speaker

Altec Lansing Soundblade Bluetooth SpeakerOliver gave him a set of frisbee golf discs.    They are the same that the boys gave me for Mother’s Day.

Frisbee Disc Golf Set

Since Oliver didn’t have any discs, Jordon bought three Frisbees for a $1 each for him.  This way he can join us when we play.

We also gave him a hacky sack.  Every teen needs a hacky sack to kick around, even if they aren’t really good at it.

Happy Birthday Mark!

Recipes and more recipes

I decided to consolidate some of my web presence today and I imported all 1500 recipes from The Cooking Blog into my own weblog here.   The recipes can be found here and they are searchable and sorted by tag. 

Running the two sites made sense at the time but since then, it has just added a different thing onto my plate.  This way no matter what I do to The Cooking Blog, the recipes will be archived on my site.