From travel

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?”.

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

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.

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. 

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

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.

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. 

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.  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 frustrated 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.

Jordon has some hilarious stories of falling in to the lake 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.

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.

Mother’s Day

I woke up early and went with Jordon to Saskatoon City Hospital while he got treatment and some tests on his foot.  It gets better for a while and then it gets way worse.  Today was a way worse kind of day.  The good news is that they did the test on his leg that he has been dreading and the results were amazing.  The leg is messed up but the long term prognosis is getting better.

After that ordeal was over, I had a nice brunch with  Mark and Oliver who then along with Jordon took me for a walk with our cameras along to Wanuskewin Heritage Park.  We got out there and it was closed for a special function (doh!).  We had been out on Sunday’s before but didn’t realize they also close on Sundays in the winter.

So we decided to go out to Pike Lake and check it out and The Gift of Green Nature Trail.  We walked the promenade but the trail wasn’t open yet and was still barricaded.  We will return to hike it for Oliver’s birthday (it was his idea and was excited about it).

The boys gave me a three disc frisbee golf set that I can use at the frisbee golf course in Diefenbaker Park.  I will try them out next weekend.  Jordon and Sean are tossing the discs once in a while (Jordon is terrible at it) so I may join them.

Frisbee Disc SetThey also got me a grip for my Olympus OM-D E-M10, some lightweight gloves for when we go to Grey Owl’s cabin, and some new headphones from Panasonic.   I must thank Hilary for introducing all of us to the joy of higher quality headphones (and reviews in The Wire Cutter in some tweets a couple of years ago.  My ears thank her.

Jordon had some photos of Mark, Oliver and Marley framed for me.  They look great.  Well the photos of Mark and Oliver look great, the one he picked of Marley was of me after I had to run after her after she bolted.  I look mad, Mark looks indifferent, and Marley looks defiant.    

I hope you are having a wonderful Mother’s Day as well.  

Happy Birthday Jordon!

It’s Jordon’s 41st birthday today.  To celebrate I got Mark and Oliver up early and we gave him his gift which was a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Lens for his Pentax camera.

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Lens

He will use it to shoot Mark’s football this fall with and maybe some wildlife.  I hope he likes it.  Of course Mark is super excited as it means that he gets Jordon’s older Sigma 70-210 lens.  He sees it as a win-win.

Mark gave him a new Starbucks Travel Mug

Starbucks Travel Mug

Oliver gave him Saskatoon’s Electric Transit: the Story of Saskatoon’s Streetcars and Trolley Buses by Easten Wayman

Saskatoon's Electric Transit by Easten Wayman

It’s a used book from Westgate Books.

They also ordered Jordon a 65 litre backpack for our trip to Grey Owl’s cabin.  It’s big enough that we can pack Oliver in it and have room to spare.

North 49 - 55 litre backpack

It is Jordon’s day off today.  I took it off to hang out with him.  After the boys were off to school, we went for coffee at City Perk and then grabbed lunch at the Spring Roll on 33rd.  This afternoon we are  off for a long walk as Jordon tried out his new lens and then to Broadcast House where Jordon does his 5:15 roundtable with David Kirton and Cynthia Block.

It’s freezing out, time to escape

With it being so cold this January, we couldn’t help but plan out a summer getaway.

We have two trips planned for this summer.  One is our long delayed micro adventure to Grey Owl’s Cabin.  We are doing that in June just after Mark’s 15th birthday (Jordon has the gear guide for the hike here)

The second is a summer vacation to Calgary at the end of July.  Jordon was born in Edmonton but still considers Calgary his hometown despite only living there for less than a decade as a kid.  I think it is a combination of childhood experiences and memories combined with his one way bromance with Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi.  Oh yeah, the Rocky Mountains.

When we started to think about a trip this summer, I realized that we have a lot of AirMiles accumulated.  AirMiles are the only reason why we continue to be treated poorly by the Bank of Montreal (which took a year to fix Jordon’s debit card so it would not randomly lock him out of his account).  We are using the AirMiles to pay for our hotel which makes for a really cheap trip.  

I just booked our hotel rooms at the Best Western Plus Calgary Centre Inn on Macleod Trail.  We have stayed there before and liked it.  It’s not the Delta Bessborough or anything but it’s new, clean and is in easy walking distance of a C-Train station, is just down from Chinook Centre and has a pool, hot tub, and pool for small children.  It also has an early morning breakfast buffet that the kids like.  It is the definition of a family hotel which is great for us as we are a family.

The plan is to take off in the early morning of a Friday and let the kids sleep in the back of the car.  We will take the leisurely drive to Drumheller and take some photographs of their rather scenic downtown and give the kids some time to stretch their legs.   Hopefully be in Calgary by early afternoon and book into our hotel.  As soon as we get settled in, we will grab our cameras and head downtown on the LRT and explore downtown Calgary, find the Peace Bridge, check out The Bow, and wander around downtown Calgary.  If I know us, we will be right back down there to do some night photography.

The Peace Bridge in Calgary an HDR photo

Mark Cooper in downtown Calgary

The next morning the plan is to get up early and take the scenic route to Banff and then head straight to Johnston’s Canyon Trail and walk the trail along the seven waterfalls.  Knowing us, we will have cameras in tow and I am really looking forward to doing this again and with the boys.  It’s about a two hour hike which will leave us lots of time to explore Banff later on in the day.

Lower fall johnston Canyon

After the hike, the plan is to continue up the Bow Valley Parkway to the Chateau Lake Louise where we will grab lunch and head back to Banff.  Hopefully we will see some wildlife along this section of the park.

 On the way back to Banff, we will grab lunch at a wonderful picnic spot at the start of the Sawback Trail.  It has some quiet picnic tables, a babbling brook, and amazing scenery.  The first time Jordon took me there, a large herd of elk surrounded our car and licked all of the salt off it.  It was covered in Elk saliva, even under the door handles.  Gross.  I hope that doesn’t happen again.  If it does, I’ll get the boys to open my door.

The brook in Sawback and water running off the canyon walls of Johnston’s Canyon have a rich history with Jordon.  He has drank both of them and gotten really sick from Giardia as a kid.  Hopefully he has learned something since then but it’s Jordon so expect him to be hospitalized in Calgary.

After Johnston’s Canyon, we are off to Cave and Basin National Historical Site which in all of my trips to Banff, I have never been to.  The last time we were in Banff it was being renovated and updated.  It’s now open, improved, and dirt cheap to explore.  Jordon loves it and can’t wait to take the boys and myself into the cave and see the glowing water.  It should be amazing.  Since we are there on a Saturday, we may stay late and return there for a lantern tour of the caves.

If we have time, it will be up the Banff Gondola again.  I have been up a few times in winter but never in the summer.  It will be a long day but there is always time for the Bow Falls in Banff.  July weather will mean a little more green than in this photo Jordon took in 2010.

Bow Falls in Banff

To end the day, Mark suggested we will head to the Upper Banff Hot Springs for a hot soak in the pool before heading back to Calgary.

After soaking in the hot tub that night, the next morning should find us at Heritage Park.  I have never been but it looks amazing and a lot of fun.  Jordon won’t tell me why but he says to bring some extra small change along when we go.

Finally on our last day there we will take in the Calgary Zoo.  I’m not worried about Jordon in Banff, downtown Calgary, or even in Drumheller but he has this fear of birds.  Calgary Zoo has a bird house.  Jordon kind of freaked out the last time he was there.  We’ll have our cameras out this time.

As always we will connect with some friends, family, and MEC and since it is right next door, The Camera Store.

I can’t wait.

Atlas Coal Mine

Ford Canada was cool enough to let us review a 2014 Ford Escape for a week.  Driving it around Saskatoon was cool enough but what better thing to do with a Ford Escape than take a road trip.  We decided to go to Drumheller and see the Atlas Coal Mine.  Below is the only remaining coal tipple in Canada.

 

The coal tipple at The Atlas Coal Mine

Before taking the tour of the facility, we walked around and found this 80 year old wooden truss bridge near the mine site.  As you can see, the bridge is rotting, condemned, dangerous, and actually has rattlesnakes living in it.  Of course we wandered across and took some photos.  None of us fell through or were bit.  There is always next time.Jordon Cooper taking a photo on the wooden truss bridge near East Coulee and Atlas Coal Mine

Back in the Atlas Coal Mine, I wandered in on this photo shoot.  I snapped a couple of photos myself.

A model shoot at the Atlas Coal Mine

This is called the walk from hell.  Each day the miners had to walk up 191 steep stairs in all kinds of weather conditions.  It is also where Jordon tore his left quad.  This group was able to climb down, our group had to walk up the steps.

The Walk from Hell at the Atlas Coal Mine

This is our guide.  Like all of the staff at the Atlas Coal Mine, she was funny, engaging, and knew her stuff.

Our guide at the Atlas Coal Mine

The photos were taken with my Olympus PEN camera but I had the amazing 45mm f1.8 lens on it.  This tiny prime lens was amazing in low light and inside the many buildings that make up the Atlas Coal Mine site.  If you are looking for a great travel camera, this is it.   Thanks to Don’s Photo in Saskatoon for letting me try out such an amazing lens for a day.

In case you are looking for more Atlas Coal Mine photos, my photoset is here.

Off to Winnipeg

Air Canada Jazz CRJ200 refueling

I got onto one of these today (an Air Canada Jazz CRJ-200) and flew to Winnipeg where I will be taking some training for Safeway as a part of their transition to being owned by Sobey’s.  The plane isn’t that large but the flight isn’t that long.

The last time I flew into Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, I was on a flight from Toronto with my family that was part our journey north from Georgetown, Guyana in 1975.  Of course that airport is long gone (although Bryan Scott has some great photos of it).

The only bad part of the trip is that while we are in a nice hotel near the airport, I won’t have time to get down to The Forks for some Dahl Puri.  That’s on my list for next time.