David Thompson Country

You might have heard the plan announced this week to develop new provincial parks in the area between Banff and Rocky Mountain House. If you haven’t, then you should read about here. Its incredibly exciting to be developing this area in order to better manage it and also to better protect it. The development of this area is being compared to when Kananaskis Country was formed, which I happen to think is incredible but will admit to being biased about 😉

I will admit that I have not spent nearly enough time exploring that area, but about a month ago went on a mini road trip to explore. Here are some of my favourite photos from David Thomson Country:

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Christmas Lights: Spruce Grove

I LOVE Christmas. Like love love love Christmas.

I have ever since I was a young kid. To me, Christmas was always about family traditions. My parents wedding anniversary is December 19th, and we always spent the weekend closest to that date in Ottawa going to artisan craft shows, museums, eating dinner in the Byward Market and seeing the Christmas lights on Parliament Hill.

For the holiday itself, we would always have dinner at my grandfathers house on Christmas Eve, a totally informal potluck dinner where the family crowded the living room and visited with each other while watching Christmas movies. Christmas morning was spent with my parents and brother, and then we would usually drive to my Aunt and Uncles house for dinner with all my cousins, and in later years, all their kids.  On the drive home from dinner, we would always drive home the scenic way, touring through the neighborhoods with the best Christmas lights. 

Zoo Lights at the Calgary Zoo

Now, living across the country from my family, I have had to create my own holiday traditions, but taking in the best Christmas lights displays that I can find. I have gone to Zoo Lights (at the Calgary Zoo) for the last 3 years and highly recommend going! But last night I was shown an absolutely magical (although obviously on a smaller scale) display that is absolutely free to check out!

Central Park in Spruce Grove, just outside of Edmonton, goes absolutely over the top, decking out every tree in the park with festive lights. There is parking nearby, so grab a hot chocolate and go for a stroll. When the weather is more cooperative, I’ve been informed that there is also skating around the perimeter of the park. I will definitely be back! 

Looking back on the last year…

I will admit it has been awhile since I have posted.

Almost an entire year. 

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been doing things… In fact it is just the opposite! I have been too busy doing ALL the things. Between working multiple jobs, spending time outside and getting some travelling in, I have been too tired to feel inspired to sit down and write. I even stopped shooting on my DSLR for awhile there. But the last couple months have allowed me to slow down, gather my life together and start to feel creative again. Let me catch you up on my last year…

 

Oh yeah so… my hair is varying shades of red/pink/purple now

Highlights of my year:

  • Traveled to Ontario to see my family in January. And August. And heading back again in a couple of weeks
  • Participated in my third Calgary Firefighter Stairclimb in April
  • Completed my training as swiftwater rescue technician in May
  • Got my class 2 drivers license in May
  • Completed ITLS (International Trauma and Life Support) also in May
  • Trained my ass off for, and competed in my first ever Firefit competition in June (it was a disaster LOL)
  • Worked as a canoe guide for the summer
  • Broke my thumb, three ribs and re-dislocated my knee between April and August
  • Roadtripped around the west coast with my family
  • Started working (super casually but LOVE it!) at Canmore Brewing
  • And have basically been all over Alberta in the last 6 months or so.

It has honestly been a wild year, in so many ways. I am working on doing some writing, catching up on all the amazing places I have been and things that I have seen and am trying to get settled into a better schedule for writing. Its so easy to let writing slip, and then you look at how long it’s been since you’ve posted anything, and you feel so bad that you don’t want to post anything… Its a vicious circle that leads to more procrastination. But I am here. I’m back and better than ever!

 

Focusing On the Things that Matter

In the past couple years, my life has changed a lot.

We all have that road map in our heads, the ‘game plan’ for how things are supposed to go. For most people, myself included, it goes something like:

  • Go to post secondary school
  • Get a ‘real’ job
  • Fall in love
  • Get married
  • Have kids
  • Live Happily Ever After

So what happens when that doesn’t exactly work out…

I thought I had everything figured out, that I was on track. Steps one-four were done. I was married to a good man… but… Things there didn’t quite work out. So here I am, 25, divorced and childless.

And it has taken me awhile to realize that that is okay.

So what happened, why did things fall apart? Well long story short we both ended up wanting very different things.

About 3 years ago, I became a firefighter. This is the part of my life that I didn’t know I was missing until I found it. I fell in love with firefighting and I fell in love with my life in Kananaskis. I want to be the absolute best firefighter possible, and that meant putting a hold on having kids (along with some health complications in that regard, but that is a whole other story).

When you find that one thing that sets your soul on fire, that completes you, your reason for waking up in the morning, you follow that. Chase that. If you walk away from something that lights that passion in you, I fully believe you will live to regret it for the rest of your days. I was not prepared to live with regret for the rest of my life.  If someone tells you to choose between them and the thing you are most passionate about, it is no choice at all.

So while I cried myself to sleep for my share of nights, mourning the loss of what was and what could have been, I know I made the right choice. The right choice is rarely easy, and it is one I will live with for the rest of my life, but I am okay with that. I am self-aware enough to know what I need in life and what I am not capable of living without.

My message to other people going through difficult relationships is this:

Know yourself. Know what you need in life and know your limits. Do not give up on yourself to make someone else happy. You do not want to live with regret for the rest of your life, you only get one life to live. You must be happy with yourself before you can be happy with someone else. Find someone who is prepared to truly be your partner, who will support your dreams as you support theirs.

As a side note, a relationship ending does not make either party ‘bad’, it just means you were not right for each other. To my ex-husband, I wish you nothing but happiness. I hope you find something to be passionate about and that you can find someone with whom you will be happy and with whom you share your dreams.

Moving forward from a rough couple of years, I am focusing on the things that matter and on pursuing my dreams. While married to an RCMP officer, I could not really look at having career dreams or aspirations of my own, since we would be moving every 3-5 years for the rest of our working lives. Now that I am on my own, I have the freedom to pursue my own career. And that is exactly what I am doing!

I want to become a full time firefighter. This is my dream since the day I became a firefighter. When I stepped into that bunker gear for the first time, it felt right. I knew that that was what I was meant to do. I could help people, make an actual difference in the lives of people who needed assistance. And since I started training, I have wanted to do more, to be able to help more. Over the last 3 years as a firefighter, I have taken some amazing courses to make me a stronger rescuer, and I look forward to taking many more over the course of a long career. I will write more about my career aspirations later, since that could be a blog post in and of itself…

I know that this post has been a little loopy and non-linear, but these are all things that I have been struggling to put into writing for a long time. I can’t even tell you how many times I have sat down to write about this, or about things that are currently happening in my life, but felt a block because of the dark shadow of my failed relationship. They say you have healed when you can talk about what hurt you and you no longer cry. If that is the measure for healing, then I am doing very well these days.

I want to say a huge thank you to all the incredible people in my life who have been there with me through all of this. To my parents, thank you for raising me to be strong and for supporting me when I am not. To my fire family, you guys have been my rock. You guys got me through a time so tough that I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but here I am, out the other side and stronger than ever. And finally, to KM. You have been there for me as my best friend through all of this. I don’t know what I would do without you. I love all these incredible people in my life and am so lucky to have them.

Cheers to moving forward, to living your dreams and to becoming the best version of yourself possible.

 

Drumheller in a Day

 

Now, while I highly recommend spending more than a single day in Drumheller, sometimes busy schedules get in the way and one day is all you have to spare. If one day is all you have, then these are the things you absolutely must do:

Royal Tyrell Museum:

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The Royal Tyrell Museum is a place I have loved ever since I was a little kid. I first visited this museum at the age of 4 and have been back several times since. Plan on spending a couple of hours here, exploring and reading through the incredible displays.

 

Horse Thief Canyon:

Horse Thief Canyon is a beautiful showcase of the badlands, and is definitely worth the short drive, followed by a little on-foot exploration.

The Giant Dinosaur:

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This giant fellow is pretty easy to find, since its massive 😉

No trip to Drumheller is complete without a photo with the giant dino.

 

A Brief History Of Flannel

 

I love flannel. If you look in my closet, you will find way more flannel than any person who isn’t a lumberjack should own. There is just something so incredibly cozy about a good flannel shirt, or soft flannel sheets. But I bet you don’t realize the incredible history behind flannel, or why it was developed in the first place. Lets dive into this a little…

According to the Wikipedia entry on flannel (yes, there is a Wikipedia entry on flannel…) :

Flannel is a soft woven fabric, of various fineness. Flannel was originally made from carded wool or worsted yarn, but is now often made from wool, cotton, or synthetic fiber. Vegetable flannel is made from Scots pine fiber. Flannel may be brushed to create extra softness or remain un-brushed.

Historically, flannel, or flannel like material, can be traced back to 16th century Wales. While flannel now comes in a huge array of colours thanks to modern synthetic dyes, the colour of flannel use to be correlated to the colour of wool used to make it. If you wanted black flannel, better go find yourself a black sheep.

Flannel has not always been a fashion statement: originally, flannel was developed for its capacity to keep people warm. Being made from wool, it was a great insulator, warm when wet and densely woven to keep the wind out. The large quantity of sheep in Wales (and Europe in general) made production of this fabric affordable. While it was originally made from hand-carded wool, the Industrial Revolution made this woven fabric more accessible to people of all economic standings.

Flannel came to be manufactured in North America in 1889, starting in Detroit, when Hamilton Carhartt (I bet you recognize that last name!) wanted to make better work clothes for men. Prior to this, flannel was being imported from Europe. Loved by railway workers, frontiersmen, construction workers, and of course loggers, flannel came to be known as a shirt for ‘rugged men.’ Flannel was also used for uniforms, undergarments and patches for soldiers during World War I & II.

In the 1950’s, the grey flannel suit became a staple for businessmen, making flannel stylish, as opposed to just practical. After the 50’s, the popularity of flannel seemed to die off for a bit, before the grunge look of the 1990’s brought it back, but now flannel was mostly being made out of a cotton blend. Flannel has been mainstream for quite awhile now, but with the rise of the Lumbersexual movement, flannel is now more popular than ever.

It seems like every store in the mall now has flannel of some sort. But not all flannel is created equal. Things to consider when buying flannel:

Quality stitching: look at the seams. Will this shirt hold up for how you are going to wear it? I wouldn’t go to the Gap to buy a flannel shirt that I planned to wear hiking.

Thickness: Men rarely have a problem finding nice, thick flannel. But most women’s flannel is (excuse my language) bullshit. It’s thin and doesn’t hold up for more than a season.

Softness: You can find thick flannel that is still soft. You don’t want a shirt so stiff that it can stand up on its own, and you don’t want a shirt that’s going to make your skin itch (more of a concern with wool flannels).

So now that you have an idea of what to look for in good flannel, lets take a look at some of the best (in my humble opinion) flannel shirts on the market right now:

Pendleton – Hawthorne Flannel Shirt

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This one is for the guys. This thick, luxurious flannel comes in a variety of traditional patterns. Fits a tad on the slim side, so women can get away with wearing it as well.

 

 

 

Pendleton – Canyon Wool Flannel Shirt

This shirt is perfect for the flannel purist. It is made out of wool, but is still soft enough to wear next-to-skin.

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Patagonia – Fjord Flannel Shirt

Patagonia has really nailed it with this shirt. Both the mens and ladies shirts have a great cut, traditional but still flattering. This cotton flannel is super soft and thick, making it the shirt you want to pull on when the mornings are chilly.

Roots – Algonquin Shirt

Inspired by the rugged wilderness of Algonquin park and the incredible history of logging and bushcraft, this shirt pays homage to its namesake. This flannel is thick, but soft and the twill and faux suede details set it apart.

 

Eddie Bauer – Stine’s Favourite Flannel

Christine, or ‘Stine’, was Eddie’s wife and an incredible woman all on her own. As a sporting woman, she helped influence the women’s’ line of clothing at Eddie Bauer. Much like the woman it’s named after, these flannel shirts are classy, yet adventurous. I personally own the heathered grey with white polka dots, because not all flannel needs to be plaid 😉

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Eddie Bauer – Expedition Flannel

Technical flannel? You bet. Say hello to Flannel 3.0. This material is a blend of synthetics that feel almost as soft as cotton flannel, but the choice of material helps this shirt to give extra insulation, and wick moisture away from the body. This is available for both men and women. I gave this flannel a try back in the fall and was pleasantly surprised by how much I love it, despite it being a synthetic.

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American Eagle – Ahh-mazingly Soft Flannel Shirt Jacket

Seriously, that’s what it’s called. Ladies only for this shirt! The fact that I fell in love with a shirt at American Eagle was a bit of a surprise, but this is seriously my favorite flannel shirt of 2016. The material is the softest I have ever felt, it is as smooth as butter on your skin.

american-eagle-super-soft

 

So now that you know a bit more about flannel, and some of the amazing flannels out on the market right now, I want to share with you the best way to take care of your flannel:

Flannel shrinks. Badly. You can lose up to an inch in length and ½ an inch in width on a flannel shirt if you wash it wrong. Wash your flannel with gentle detergent in cool water (my washer has a ‘tap cold’ setting that I use) and hang it up to dry. I will toss my shirts in the dryer for a few minutes on tumble dry – low to fluff them up before wearing them, but if you dry your flannel on high heat, you are going to find your shirt significantly smaller than when you put it in the wash.

 

Do you love flannel as much as I do? Get your flannel selfies ready and stay tuned for a contest coming up in a few weeks.

The New & Improved Banff Gondola

You might have heard that the Banff Gondola recently did a renovation…a 26 million dollar renovation. Having not been up the Gondola in a couple of years, I wanted to check it out.  I was quite impressed with the new facility; it has a modern look and is brightly lit with natural light.

The new interpretive displays are fantastic, and perfect for visitors of all ages. The new restaurant and lounge up top is also incredible. Definitely the best view in Banff to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer.

I highly recommend checking out the renovations for yourself, but until then, I will tide you over with some photos:

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Indefatigable and Knowing When To Quit

Indefatigable

[in-di-fat-i-guh-buh l]
adjective
1.Incapable of being tired out; not yielding to fatigue. Untiring.

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Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am stubborn and refuse to quit once I have started something. I can be hot-headed and don’t believe in half-a$$ing anything. Failure does not sit well with me.

But the flip side of that is that I have a good understanding of risk management. As both a firefighter and a guide, the core of my jobs are keeping people safe (and alive!). I will take a little more risk if it’s just myself on the line, but when it comes to hiking, I know when to call it a day. Even if it chafes me.

Knowing when to quit is a vital outdoors skill that we don’t talk about enough. No one wants to tell people about that time they almost climbed a mountain. But there are some circumstances where it is absolutely necessary to say ‘hey, this isn’t going to end well.’ Yesterday I was faced with a situation in which I could not successfully summit a mountain I had started.  The irony of the name of the mountain and the fact I had to quit is not lost on me…

14522910_10210720856047250_5325527288512167805_nI often hike alone, and solo summits are one of my guilty pleasures. I hike so often with strangers for work, that I enjoy my peaceful time to myself when I can get it. Yesterday I had decided to summit Mt Indefatigable, near Upper Kananaskis Lake. The hike is not a particularly difficult one, it’s only about 5km round trip but over 1000 feet of elevation gain. The weather was fantastic when I started, sunny and warm with only a few clouds in the sky. I was carrying a pack with everything I could need: food, water, a light rain jacket, pocket knife, first aid kit and bear spray. I was ready for the day and whatever may come my way.

I got to the trailhead at about 2:15 and started up the mountain. The day was beautiful as I made my way towards the summit. About 3/4 of the way up, the radio tower and helipad on top of the mountain calling my name, I felt the air pressure drop. It was enough that my ears were actually popping. The feeling didn’t sit well with me, even though there was not a cloud in the sky. I decided to stop for a few minutes, have a snack and some water and see what happened before I continued on. Within 5 minutes, a storm rolled in from over Mt Sarrail. I lost visibility of the top of Mt Inde and could not see Mt Sarrail across the lake. I knew it was about to get bad and I started jogging back down the mountain, wanting to be clear of the scramble before the rocks got too wet.

 

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I couldnt see Mt Sarrail across the lake.

 

The storm then proceeded to pelt me with rain, freezing rain and chunks of hail, but luckily I had turned around when I did, or I would have ended up taking shelter on the mountain until it cleared. As it was, I made it back to the trailhead in time for the sun to come out and rainbow to appear over Lower Lake. As much as I hate not summiting, I was happy to have called it quits when I did, especially after last week’s rescue on Mt Indefatigable. 

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All in all, it was a pretty great hike, despite having to turn around early. The views from Inde are stunning, probably some of my favourite in Kananaskis. On a side note, this trail is officially decommissioned by AB Parks due to bears and erosion, which means that it is not maintained. It is in prime grizzly habitat, so definitely carry bear spray and make noise. When travelling this trail, be extra sure to follow Leave No Trace hiking principles, walking in the centre of the trail, not picking flora or rocks and not creating your own shortcuts.

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In another post, I will talk about other good reasons to call it quits on a hike. What are some reasons that would force you to turn around? Share your answers in the comments below!

Here are some of my other photos from the hike:

Camp Yoga – Canmore

I found out about Camp Yoga entirely by accident. I was wandering down Whyte avenue in Edmonton with my mother in July and we swung into YEG Cycle to take a peek at their gear. As we were checking out, I noticed a postcard on the counter advertising Camp Yoga, in three different locations all across Canada: Parry Sound – Ontario, Gibsons – BC, and Canmore – Alberta, a.k.a. basically my back yard.

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I carried that postcard around in my purse for a couple of weeks, and came across it again when looking for something else. I decided to check it out online, and once I got to the website, I saw that they were looking for photographers for the event. A couple of emails later, and I was in!

The camp itself was last weekend, and what an experience. I have always been a casual yogi. I’ve practiced yoga off and on since I went to my first class at the age of 12 with my mom but am by no means very good at it. I will openly admit that I don’t know all the names of all the poses, I don’t know what all the yoga vocab means and I had no idea what to expect from the weekend, but there were so many different things to try, way more than just yoga, so I was pretty excited for the weekend.

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Friday dawned bright and sunny; I double and triple checked all my camera gear and then headed out to YMCA Camp Chief Hector, where Camp Yoga was being hosted. All the yogis started rolling in around 11:00 and the opening ceremonies were at 11:30 on the lawn. All the different instructors took a few minutes to welcome the participants, putting them through a quick workout routine, showing off their individual teaching style. Everyone hugged, fist bumped, burpee-d and danced before heading off to lunch.

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Lunch was served very much camp style: picnic tables in a giant mess hall and everyone made new friends. After lunch, the activities were into full swing: The weekend was jam packed with archery, climbing, dance classes, horse yoga, whitewater rafting, mala workshops, smoothie workshops and, of course, yoga. There truly was something for everyone. Each evening was capped off with music, craft beer and a campfire.

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As a photographer at an event of this scale and diversity, I was faced with some interesting challenges. There was a lot of running around since the different events were all over the massive camp property. Photographing white water rafting requires a different skill set than photographing yoga or dance. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and the chance to photograph so many awesome activities in such a short period of time. The Visual Story Telling team consisted of myself and lovely girl named Des as photographers and Adam, a videographer from Vancouver. You can see some of our work on the Camp Yoga, LululemonYEG and LululemonYYC instagram feeds. If you want to see more of what I shot, keep scrolling 🙂

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My home for the weekend

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The Nightsky

I have always loved the stars.

I have never lived in a city, so I have always been able to walk outside my home and stargaze. I love that you can watch the stars move, that the constellations shift and that the skies are different from night to night. I love laying outside in the grass and watching for meteor showers and I love bundling up on cold nights to photograph the crystal clear skies and always cross my fingers for a glimpse of the northern lights.

It is only in recent years that I have started photographing the stars and the aurora, but it has made me fall all the more in love with the night sky. One of my favourite parts of winter are the long nights, and clear cold skies. In the winter, I can see the northern lights almost every single nights, and I miss them throughout the summer, when it is much more difficult to glimpse them in the brief hours of actual darkness.

The other night, I was incredibly lucky and got to photograph the aurora AND the milky way. If I faced north, the aurora was vivid on the horizon and by just turning around 180 degrees, the milky way stretched overhead. These moments always leave me feeling tiny and yet part of something so very huge.

Here are my two favourite photos from that night:

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Please note that these are the low-res images;

High res images will be available for sale on my etsy page soon!