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Alberta Road Trip Diary (Day 1-3)

25 Jun

Saturday, June 22, 2013: Day One

This morning we woke at 5am to catch our flight out of Hamilton at 7am to Calgary. While descending into Calgary, the effects of the flooding in the area were immediately apparent. Our thoughts are with the residents of Southern Alberta. Many have lost their homes, and some their lives.

A big thanks to WestJet for helping us to redirect our flights last minute to avoid Calgary altogether. We highly recommend flying with WestJet, the service is excellent and the staff are fantastic.  Back to the trip- After a three hour layover, we flew to Edmonton. Edmonton Airport is very nice and very maneuverable.  We picked up our car from Enterprise- a Ford Focus. The gentleman at the counter offered an upgrade to a Mustang Convertible for the low, low price of an additional $45 daily (Yes, this rate seems ridiculous, but if we were driving to Banff as planned, I would have totally considered the upgrade). ….(Funny side note: 30 minutes into the trip our rental received the common Alberta mishap: a huge stone chip. The windshield has a huge crack in it now and we are looking into getting it replaced. What luck eh?)

On our way now, we are driving to Hinton, Alberta. About 3.5 hours from Edmonton. So far the scenery is beautiful: green everywhere, mostly coniferous trees and gloriously large birch trees. We saw a nesting pair of Bald Eagles and have our eyes peeled for Elk and Black Bear. The foothills are just appearing in the horizon now as we eagerly await our arrival at the Pocahantas Lodges. Tonight we plan to soak in the Miette Hot Springs which are just down the road from our accommodations.

10pm: After a quick dinner at the hotel resturant, we made our way up to the Miette Hot Springs for a sunset soak. What a beautiful view from the pool.

Sunday June 23, 2013: Day Two

Waking up at 7am, we had breakfast at the hotel and quickly loaded the car. Heading down the Trans-Canada Hwy, we headed towards Jasper. The scenery was breath-taking. Arriving at Maligne Lake, we headed down to the boat house. Due to the flooding in Alberta, the boathouse was flooded with half a foot of water! We felt bad for the poor guys working there but they smiled and said they were making due. We finally rented a canoe for 2 hours and paddled out onto the beautiful turquoise water. Surrounded by the Rockies, we spent the morning paddling and drinking a few beers. Maligne Lake is apparently the second largest glacier fed lake in the world- second only to one in Siberia. Because it is glacier fed, the water is always a cloudy turquoise colour.

After our morning on the lake, we loaded up back into our car drove out to Hinton. The place we were staying was Old Entrance B&B. When we pulled off the paved road onto a dusty dirt road surrounded by huge pine trees and mountain views, I had a feeling we were in for a treat. The property is a 60 acre ranch on the Athabasca River with gorgeous views of the foothills and mountains in the distance. As soon as you pull in, you realize that this isn’t a resort, this is someone’s home. It’s very personal feeling and quiet. As we drove up to the Main Building, we noticed that it was a converted train station. Later we found out that the house (it was stunning by the way) was indeed a train station in the early 1900’s. We were greeted with a smile by Carol who asked us how Calgary was doing with the flooding and how our trip had been thus far. She gave us a map to the property and said that firewood for our stove and fire pit was being chopped.

Old Entrance B&B has 3 cabins, and three teepees available for guests. We were so surprised at how spacious and comfortable the teepee was. It had a wooden floor, a full double bed with a nice duvet, a stove, a table and a water jug for washing and drinking. The teepee was right beside the raging and now very high Athabasca River.

We read in our lounge chairs overlooking the river and waited for 6:30pm to arrive- we had booked a trail ride. Mary and a young man (who we later found out was there for the summer from Quebec) had tacked up and readied our plump little horses. They looked very well and were well behaved. Our trail ride was 1.5 hours and took us through Mary’s property, but also much of the surrounding property which is all Crown Land. With the amazing views, high mountain-side trails, and fantastic little horses, we had a fantastic time.

I was about ready for sleep when we returned to our teepee. The amazing thing about Alberta this time of year is that it stays light for so long. The sun doesn’t set until 11:00pm, and rises around 3:30-4am. I decided to try to get some sleep- after all, we were going to hike up a mountain tomorrow!

Monday, June 24, 2013: Day Three

I awoke at 4:00 am. Yes, I know… but I’m still on Ontario time plus the sun is blazing! I tied up our things and packed the car while Chris slept. The morning was so beautiful at Old Entrance. The horses are kept loose on the property and had been grazing around our teepee. A couple came up to wish me good morning while I read in my chair.

When Chris woke up we went up to Toilets and Shower to get clean. We then packed up and headed to the main house for breakfast. The assortment of breakfast options was incredible!! (We were now used to paying $20/pp for crappy pancakes and soggy bacon, so this fantastic and healthy ‘help yourself’ breakfast was a huge bonus for us!! And it was $8 each! Beauty). We chatted with Carol during breakfast as we sat at a table overlooking the river, mountains and the horses just outside the windowsill. The hospitality and peacefulness at Old Entrance was incredible. It’s not advertised very well (perhaps on purpose!) on the internet and is truly a hidden gem. We met another couple from Germany who felt the same. Carol mentioned that they are happy keeping it a quiet place, and not a full ‘resort’. She said that most of the people that come are very down to earth and they enjoy having them and sharing their little piece of heaven with them as friends. By this point I was dragging my feet not wanting to leave (ever) and Chris reminded me we had a hike to get to. We said goodbye to our gracious hosts, paid for our stay (which was ridiculously affordable), and were back on the road for Jasper again.

Forty minutes later we were at the Miette Hot Springs Parking Lot again. This time to hike up to the summit of Sulphur Ridge. The trail head begins just behind the springs and the trek takes 4-6hours. The going was really not that bad, just all up-hill (obviously!). It was very cool to see the change in vegetation as the elevation changed. Starting in wet forest, we eventually ended up in alpine tundra. I had a bit of difficulty on the way up due to my horrible sinus infection I’ve had for the past 4 days. Breathing was a bit strenuous, but on the bright side, the higher I went, the less pressure my head felt!

Our efforts were well worth our reward: the view was astounding. Literally, I think my mouth was open for a good 60 seconds in shock. 360 degrees of Canadian Rocky Mountains. We lucked out with weather too- it was thundering quite loudly as we hiked up and were worried that clouds would move in to obscure our views. Thankfully they moved on by the time we reached the summit because we could see for miles. I have never seen so far!

We hiked down after enjoying a few snacks and soaking in the scenery. Mountain goats were along the ridge and a few were brazen enough to approach us. I think they may have acquired a taste for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Back in the car (the crack getting larger now), we headed back to Edmonton. We were to meet up with my best friend Sarah and her boyfriend Baxter who live there. What a treat!

Chris’s Latest Work Airs on Discovery: ‘Never Ever Do This At Home’ Canada

5 Apr

Here is the recently released preview for Never Ever Do This at Home set to air on Discovery this Spring (2013).

Chris was the Key Special FX Coordinator for this new series. (He  developed and rigged all the explosions, gags, ‘experiments’ and stunts you’re about to see).

More to come on this show- Chris has a few funny stories to share…

Cozumel Day Six/Seven

16 Feb

We had an amazing trip to Cozumel. We had so many fun adventures and made lasting memories with family. It was wonderful to spend time together while relaxing and not worrying about work/responsibilities that wait for us at home.

On Tuesday we went into town to do a bit of shopping. I bought a beautiful purple and black blanket as well as some earrings and a pendant for my friend back home. Chris bought some vanilla and lots of sweets. He loved the chirro’s which his mother calls ‘Grease Sticks’.  Although perhaps unappetizing, it’s an accurate discription. They are coated in cinnamon and taste like the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal.

On our last night we went into town to celebrate Mardi Gras. We had dinner at Casa Dennis. It is a wonderful little restaurant in town that served us large (and I do mean large) drinks and homemade, authentic food. It was fun to try new meals and hang out with the locals. Everyone is so nice and welcoming. They would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it.

After dinner we walked (more like stumbled after those Daiquiris) into town to watch the parade. I’m pretty sure we were actually part of the parade at one point. It was fun dancing and singing in the streets with Chris, Rob and Jenna. We had a blast.

The last day we soaked up the lazy of the sunshine and packed our bags. We headed to the airport at noon wishing we had just a few more days in paradise.

…We will be back Cozumel!

Cozumel Day Four

10 Feb

So on the second day’s evening, Chris was terribly ill…with pneumonia. He was in bed for 36 hours basically comatose.  Thankfully we traveled with his family (… his dad is a Vet, his mom is an ER Nurse, his aunt also a nurse, his brother an Xray tech and his sister in law an Ultrasound tech) so there was no shortage of medical personnel ready to give diagnosis. After a short trip to the pharmacy he was on a couple different antibiotics and now feels MUCH better.

He was able to come out for a fun night in town- the 2013 Carnival!!! It was awesome to celebrate in true Mardi Gras style with the locals. What wonderful floats and costumes!

The festivities continue on Sunday night and Tuesday night- we are all looking forward to the party!

Cozumel Day One

7 Feb

DAY ONE:

We arrived yesterday in Cozumel after a long-feeling four hour flight direct from Toronto. Flying at 35,000 ft, we amused ourselves by making puppets out of barf bags, completing three cross words and playing the age-old beauty ’21 Questions’.

The condo we are staying in is stunning and very spacious. Eight Canucks in total made the trip! Upon arrival we were also happy to discover that we were the ONLY people staying in the entire condo… the pool is our own private oasis during the day which is lovely. At the edge of the pool you can walk down the steps into the ocean where colourful coral and fish are abundant.

After a trip into town to buy groceries, we all hit the hay for some much needed rest. Chris and I got up at 5am this morning to watch the sunset in bed (our room backs onto the balcony with one whole wall being glass).

After breakfast, Chris jumped in the ocean to snorkel for an hour. We then walked into town. It took us about 45 minutes to reach San Miguel where the cruise ships were docked and the ‘other’ tourists were unloading. Instead of staying on the main strip in town, we walked West further into town. We are interested in seeing where the locals eat and live.

We found a cool little juice spot and treated ourselves to a chocolate ice cream cone and a large glass of mango juice…. all for the low price of $3! We then wandered down a small back street where we came upon a small nook where we ordered fresh tacos. The lady made the taco from hand and grilled the chicken, beef and potato while we watched. During lunch, and through broken Spanish, we talked with her about the Carnival this weekend. This Saturday the entire island will shut down for the Carnival/Mardi Gras- a celebration proceeding Lent for the Mexican people. Local men and women dress up in colorful outfits and dance in the street with floats and displays. They have already began setting up sparkly decorations in the streets and painting the walls in town. It’s so nice to see the entire community come together to create a special night for one another. We are very excited to experience the celebration!!

After our 3 hour walk, we came back to the condo and went snorkeling for the rest of the afternoon. We are all a little pink, but well fed and enjoying the sunset on the balcony. I look forward to tomorrow when we’ll drive to the other side of the island which is uninhabited. We are also hoping to go spearfishing tomorrow and catch tarantulas at sunset.

Cozumel is such a beautiful island, I feel very lucky to be here with such wonderful people!

Amusing things I blew up in 2012

11 Jan

pyro editHey all,

For a living  I do special effects for film and television. Its a great job, lots of fun and I get paid to do what most people would be locked up for !

To start of 2013 I thought I would show a few of the cooler explosions I did in 2012 with some video. To make it more interesting see if you recognize any of the clips, I’m not naming shows but all the video has already been on air( I rigged a ton of pyro in 2012, I can only posted that which has been aired on TV before).

Post your comments too, if there is something you liked, didn’t like or have a cool idea leave a post.

Enjoy !

1. Shed Explosion caused by “Unstable Pesticides”

. . .Or at least that is what they said caused it !  I got a real laugh out of this one, but it made for good TV. I think they meant thermo-nuclear warheads, not pesticide but whatever. Watch for the falling rake its my favorite.

2. Gas Tank Overheated and exploding.

This shot was supposed to simulate the explosive force of a gas tank in a car letting go. Unfortunately gas tanks rarely explode, they just sort of burn away, ask me how I know. However were making TV not reality, so a bag of gas, some hits and a couple lifting charges and volia !

3.  High pressure Air Tank on the Fritz.

This one is real and does happen. Pretty cool standing beside it when I snipped the valve. The ambient pressure change was amazing.  Feeling your ears pop when your standing in an open room is a very peculiar sensation. Everyone should try it. . . once.

4. Air Mattress Filled with “Propane”

Again the ol thermo-nulclear television visuals  strike again. Have you ever seen propane this smoky before ? Didn’t think so, I hadn’t either, black powder and some other nasties gave it some snap. Skip ahead to  00:55 seconds .

Tomahawk Throwing

31 Dec

Have you heard?! Chris got me a SOG Tomahawk for Christmas! I don’t know about you, but whoever said diamonds are a girls best friend wasn’t hanging out with very interesting females…

I’ve been interested in them for a while. How useful they are in the woods for splitting wood (and your enemies heads from horseback!). Once I opened my gift, I at once was fascinated by its beautiful weight and balance! I opened up my Mac and started at YouTube. I watched video reviews and throwing demonstrations and techniques. How interesting!

During the holiday Chris had also ordered himself a set of throwing knives so we drove the Argo down to the range on the farm to test our skills. It took about an hour for me to learn to throw it correctly. I found that (as the videos suggested) distance and straightness were most important. It was quite frustrating, but once I got the feel for the Tomahawk, I hardly ever missed. I challenged myself by walking through the forest throwing it at random trees as I went. It was surprisingly accurate. At first I thought: How in the world can anybody throw this thing with any certainty of where it will land or even that it hits the target blade side up!? Seeing my frustration, Chris’s brother made the excellent point that baseball pitchers are able to pitch balls with absolute precision; altering speed, rotation and targets with every throw. …Practice makes perfect. I was happy with my fairly consistent throwing at the end of the day and look forward to practicing next week.

Chris’s throwing knives proved extremely difficult. I’m unsure whether the ten or so that sank into the target were due to improved skills or to luck. The knives are much smaller than the tomahawk and are easier to throw with a slight wobble, causing them to hit blunt end first. I’m sure that the increased number of rotations between the thrower and the target compared to the larger tomahawk also create added difficultly. They are also quite light- I think if they were heavier they may also be easier. We will keep at it.

Tommmaaa Choooppp!

West Coast Trail Video Diary- Day 5 Excerpt

1 Nov

During our time on the trail, we kept a video diary. We’ve since edited all the videos and put them together. Our entire diary video is over an hour and a half long. Here’s a quick excerpt from Day 5.

Gallery

The West Coast Trail Pictures

31 Oct

Into the Wild – Considerations and Reflections

23 Oct

Hello, Jess here.

Chris has been busy working late hours on set this past week and I’ve been home sick for two days. I hardly ever get sick and find myself overwhelmed with the underwhelming boredom of bedridden-ness. Today in my ‘despair’, I decided to start another novel: Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. What an amazing book and intriguing story. Reading this book, I found myself pausing to reflect on what I had read, even re-reading passages to fully absorb the message.

I began Into The Wild with the impression that Christopher ‘Alexander Supertramp’ McCandless was a nutter. The book begins:

In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do East Coast Family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters. (Jon Krakauer, 1996: 2).

Throughout the book, however, I found myself intrigued by Chris’s (aka Alex) actions. The author brings to life the triumph and tragedy of Alex’s physical and spiritual journey. I find that his message challenges my own decisions and aspirations. Whether he was crazy or not, I found myself relating to his contempt for middle/upper class North American society, his rejection of his career obsessed family and his lure to nature, adventure, travel and personal freedom.

I found myself relating especially to his upbringing and the way such experiences altered his outlook on the values of conventional society. Raised in a middle-upper class family, I also enjoyed the privileges of modest wealth. His parents, like mine, were consumed by their successful careers, often working late into the night and early in the morning. And yes, I too have come to abhor the idea of greed and societal restriction. There must be more to life than climbing ladders, achieving wealth, and empty houses.

Krakauer writes that when Chris’s parents suggested that he needed a college degree to attain a fulfilling career, “Chris answered that careers were demeaning twentieth century inventions, more of a liability than an asset” (Krakauer, 1996: 114). I found this small and simple statement very moving.

I did not enjoy University. In fact, I hated it. Growing up in North America, we are taught from a very young age that if we are ever to achieve anything worthwhile in life, to ever attain happiness and prosperity, peace and security, we must go to University. University, University, University. College is for idiots and if you have no-post secondary, or worse, didn’t graduate high school, well, then you’re a complete failure. University is simply the admission fee for any job making over $15/hour. Because of this ridiculous notion, we now have millions of youth over educated and under employed. The job market is so tough that there are Ph.D grads waiting tables and working in malls for $10.25/hr.  CBC Radio had a wonderful program the other day on ‘Malemployment’. Mal-employment is a form of Underemployment, specifically relating to those in a job that is far below your education and skill level. You can find the radio program here: http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Local+Shows/Ontario/ID/2296024601/?page=3

I entered University completely unaware of the Malemployment crisis in much of Canada. Because of this, during my second year of study at the University of Waterloo (the school my father had insisted I go) my idealistic, socially constructed and internalized values that ‘University is key to success’ were obliterated.  I was horrified. ‘What do you mean I may not find a job when I graduate?’  My fourteen years of education had instilled in me a focus on the all-important ‘Career‘. Over time, however,  both my career obsessed parents as well as the idea of malemployment created a hatred for such a term.  I once read somewhere that you should “Never find yourself so busy building a career that you forget to make a life”.  These words stick with me.

Back to the book… While reading Into the Wild, I found this young man’s love of adventure and progress is compelling. I truly enjoyed Alex’s words in a letter to a friend:

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one piece of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences…” (p 57). 

Ultimately, I admire this man for living his dreams and pursuing adventures unobstructed by societal restraints. To those who condemn his actions: I agree that he was reckless and a bit too sure of himself. He failed to respect the reality of living in the Alaskan Wilderness and ultimately, that unpreparedness lead to his death. That being said, I do not think we should cast Alex aside as a hippie-tramp obsessed with the beauty of nature. This man found happiness in his travels and had important ideas worth sharing that are still very relevant today.

This blog is meant to challenge those who find themselves living in ‘unhappy circumstances’ to go beyond their safe boundaries of desks and laptops and rush hour traffic. Things as simple as enjoying a walk with your dog through a hydro cut, metal detecting and experimenting in your own backyard, or stopping to watch the beetles on a leaf in the morning sun… these small adventures can create appreciation and exhilaration much like Alex’s extreme adventure. I would highly suggest reading a book and getting some sunshine. These things are important.

Cheers,

Jess

Reference:

Krakauer, J. (1997). Into the Wild. New York: Anchor Books.

 

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