Culinary Marvels in the Back Country

It seems as though Kananaskis was the must visit destination of this summer. I made it there a few times; Chris went backpacking over August long, we spent Logan‘s Stag at Pocaterra and even my sister; the self described “city slicker” went backpacking. Now for those who know my sister she’s somewhat of a foodie. She even runs a blog dedicated to sandwiches and sandwiches alone, so when I heard she was headed to one of my favorite provincial parks I knew she would be throwing caution to the wind(see article) and stirring things up on the old one burner.

 

In the same way I’ve never understood why hiking clothes look so dorky, so too I’ve never understood why camping food has to be uninspiring and dehydrated. On a recent trip to Upper Kananaskis Lake’s Point campground I was determined to prove that city slickers like myself can do the backcountry in style. This meant hiking in a halter dress and decadent menu planning for fresh veggies and herbs, smoked salmon, baked scones and hot chocolate from France. Bizarre according to some campers, but so worth it!

 

First we hiked in about 5 kilometers. Essential culinary things to bring were a one-burner element and fuel, a pot with lid that turns into a frying pan, water filtration system and two water bottles, two table settings and of course, ingredients for all of our fantastic meals!

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Maple soba noodles with veggies, basil and cashews

Soba is a Japanese noodle made of buckwheat. They’re easy to cook, in the same way you would cook pasta, but pack an extra punch with more protein and nutrients than regular pasta – great for hiking! The flavour of the noodles is subtly nutty and pairs well with other Asian seasonings like ginger, basil and soy sauce.

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Backcountry Hike-Day Breakfast

To get ready for our hike, we started with some fresh fruit and coffee before getting serious about breakfast. Smoked salmon sounds fancy, but it’s one of the easiest things to pack because it comes in tidy little packages or cans. We also hard-boiled four eggs ahead of time, but take caution to keep these in a cooler during the drive in and eat them all on the first day or they’ll spoil. The potatoes were then par-boiled and fried in butter. All practicalities aside, check out the pictures of this fantastic breakfast, complete with fresh herbs and a packet of ketchup.

 

Later on our hike I realized that the same hanky I was using as a table cloth, wash cloth and scarf to keep the hot afternoon sun off my neck smelled like the smoked salmon we had for breakfast and was perfect bear-bait. Smooth move, city slicker!

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White cheddar and herb buttermilk scones

The highlight of the trip was a batch of fresh “baked” white cheddar and herb buttermilk scones, complete with morning sunshine over the mountains and Kicking Horse coffee. The scone recipe was adapted from a backcountry cookbook and fried in the same little pan we cooked everything else in. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side and get ready for a gorgeous morning.

 

-Anthea Black

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Gear Review: GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Base Camper Cookset

I got the Bugaboo Base Camp cook set for my birthday and I just used it when we went to Drumheller. I don’t know why I didn’t bring it before but looking back I think it’s because most of the time when I go camping there is so much cooking gear that there was never a need. On the other hand I think I was a bit scared to ruin them more than anything. I busted them out when we hit Drumheller.

First thing we did was simply boil water, which they did great, they are pots in the end. I had this camp meal kicking around and Megan got one as well

The only difference was mine was the kind where you make it in the bag and hers was the kind you make in a pot of water, which I did. Heat was evenly controlled the whole time. The handle did get a bit hot which the instructions said would happen.

The next morning I made a stunning four course meal, with eggs, bacon, hash browns and maple beans. I only had a two burner stove so I started frying the bacon in the frying pan and cooking the hash browns in the small pot. Bacon cooked pretty evenly and quickly. I did cut them into half pieces and was able to do a quarter of the pound at a time. when it came to pouring the grease off I got a bit on the bottom and side of the pan and while this did not light on fire when I put it back on the heat it did make for a sticky section that was impossible to cook in the field.

The lids are made of a polycarbonate plastic that I thought would be very heat resistant. They have a strainer that works very well and flip down handily on top. In the instructions they specifically said not to let the flames of your stove pass the edge of the pot, which I watch diligently but this did not seem to matter when the pot lid for the 1.5 liter pot started to melt to the top. I caught it in time and was able to salvage both. The pot had no damage and thanks to the non-stick Teflon coating any plastic that was stuck to the pot came off very easily. The lid was not so lucky. The way it melted did not let it fit back on so I set it aside to cool before modifying it to fit again. I used my Leatherman to file the edges and while it does not fit perfectly and more it still works well enough to keep heat and steam inside and strains with no change. I will be e-mailing GSI Outdoors this week about this and hope to get a replacement.

Vital stats

Price: $55.00

Style: Destination Cook set, nesting design.

Includes: 2 L Pot, 1.5 L Pot, 8” Fry pan, 2 Strainer Lids, Cutting Board, Folding Pot Gripper, Stuff Sack

Material: Non-Stick Coated Aluminum

Weight: 34.2 ounces

Dimensions: 8.2″ x 8.2″ x 5.4″

Overall I am disappointed with the melted lid; however everything else preformed very well. The coating worked very well, things cooked evenly and in a timely matter and water boiled extremely quickly. It would be nice to have an additional handle but ill make do for now. When I got home, I gave it a good cleaning and got the sticky stuff off the fry pan with little effort. I would buy this set again; it’s affordable and cooked very well. Most of all I’m happy that I now have a quality cook set and do not have to take the old kitchen pots from home.

 

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Turbine Canyon Backpacking Trip

A while back I had Dave Waddell as a guest writer on the site to write about the rules of Beersbee because I felt he was the best for the subject matter. In the case of this article I was in the middle of one of my main events of the year and couldn’t pull away for an adventure that weekend. I knew Chris Emmerling was going backpacking and asked if he would write an article, simply because I know he has experience at it and its something I would love to tag along on one weekend next summer. Enjoy!

July 31 – August 1st. Hike: North Kananaskis Pass.

 

There are many quoted reasons to dash to the mountains: to escape the city, to see spectacular wilderness, to taste a bit of adventure. These are all lofty ambitions, and I definitely have my own reasons to hike, which I’ll tell you about at the end of the article.  But most of all, and don’t let my diction fool you, its damn good clean fun.

 

I am lucky to share the interest of hiking with a couple of my buddies, both of whom I have day hiked with before. And after they experienced a bit of the alpine, throughout the off-season they both expressed an interest in overnight backpack hiking. I decided to choose a slightly challenging backpack near the Kananaskis Lakes called North Kananaskis Pass. While this hike certainly demanded physical effort, nothing about the route was terribly technical (no exposure to heights, no super-sharp ascents, no scree slopes, no real route finding or orienteering). Yet, that doesn’t make the hike easy. Like many hikes in the Kananaskis area, it features a super-steep switchback section that will prove daunting for the unprepared (523m el. in 3 km)

 

Hiking with newbies proved to be an interesting experience for me. Having been on a number of backpacks, I had slowly acquired enough gear to get me through pretty much anything. And so the first overnight hike is always difficult for a newbie: what gear do I pack? What do I shell out to buy? What can I really expect?

 

Obviously, it’s unrealistic and financially impossible to have all of the “appropriate” gear, but this leads into a big problem: a) Proper gear makes backpacking much more comfortable and safe, but b) its hard to know what gear is really required without actually backpacking first. Therefore, it’s a trial and error process, made much easier when you hike with buddies who can make mistakes you can learn from.

 

Like checking your gear prior to packing it. One of my buddies decided not to open the seal on his new sleeping pad. He discovered that he had purchased an inflatable pillow instead of a full body length pad, which is utterly essential for keeping warm in the cold alpine nights. Fortunately, Boulton Creek Campground had a store which opened bright and early, allowing my buddy to purchase a simple foam pad.

 

After double checking all of the gear (finally), we launched into the trail, hoping to finish the first day in roughly 4 hours. The opening section of the trail is a gradual slope to the Forks Campground, slowly rounding the Lower Kananaskis Lake. On the way, we encountered a touristy-looking group who asked us a question about the trailhead for Mt. Indefatigable. I tried my best not to scoff at their suggestion, as they clearly were not equipped for a strenuous 1000+ meter elevation, scramble up a mountain with sheer drops straight into the heart of prime grizzly territory. But luckily, a sign post at the beginning of the trailhead hopefully would have struck terror into the hearts with menacing warnings about bear encounters. But this brings up another good point for newbies: remember to check a relevant recently written guidebook on trails (Mt. Indefatigable was closed as of 2008), and also check-in/phone a local office prior to heading out.

 

And while I’m at it: speaking of bears. I’m proud to say that this was my umpteenth hike in a row without a bear encounter. Despite all of the bear sightings that people mentioned when we reached Turbine Campground, we encountered none. This could be luck, or my insistence on making LOUD NOISES the entire way up the trail. I don’t mean talking. I don’t mean those retarded bells people refuse to give up (try hearing a tiny bell 10m away from a raging waterfall). I mean bellowing noises that echo across the valley. You may feel like an idiot the first time you try it, but give it an hour, and you’ll find the bellowing noises are more comforting than any other bear gadget you carry. So far it’s working for me!

 

Anyways, back to the trail. Views really started to appear once we left the 7km mark of Forks Campground. Launching up the steep switchback, the valley began to open up to more expansive views (you gotta pay if you want to play…). I was beginning to struggle a bit with the climb, but luckily my one buddy took lead and encouraged us to keep moving. This is another reason hiking with friends is so rewarding: Everyone brings a talent to hiking, and sometimes an athletic boost is what you need to keep focus.

 

At the end of the switchback, the trail evens out again in an expansive alpine valley. Here, the views really took off. The trail begins rounding a series of lakes, each more impressive than the last. Putnik Pond, more impressive than the name implies, looks dazzling next to the sharp mountain walls of Mt. Putnik. After a quick lunch, we passed the amazingly large Lawson Lake, just before Turbine Canyon Campground. I can’t say I’ve seen a larger, nicer lake in the alpine Rockies. After a long switchback, it sure looked like an inviting dip. Which is exactly what a few female hikers in front of us did, much to our surprise/delight. Being the gentlemen we are, we gave them time to scramble to find their clothes before we continued up the trail any closer. And trying not to be creepy, we decided to put away the cameras, despite the fact we were obviously trying to snap pictures of the long muscular ridgeline beside the lake, and not of the busty sirens emerging from the crystal clear waters.

  

Turbine Canyon campground is an impressive site. Mountains tower over the small campground and it features a few picnic tables with bear-proof caches already installed. Visible are hanging glaciers, and a fast moving river which dives deep into Turbine canyon proper: a heart stopping drop invites anyone who dares to venture to the edge of cliff side.

 

After a quick hot meal at the campsite, along with filtering some water and enjoying a quick pipe-smoke, the rain set in for the night. It sucks to get rained into your 3 man tent, but at least we were dry, and we played cards to pass the time until sleep. Or at least until we had to dig a trench around our tent site to prevent pooling. While we thought we had selected an excellent site, well defined with wood planks, we forgot to take into account these might actually create pooling, and the site pad suffered from rain erosion already from the year’s rain. Regardless, we dug deep and managed to redirect the water enough to prevent our gear from getting soaking.

 

The next day, we decided to eat a quick breakfast and venture to North Kananaskis proper. Despite a light rain, things were clearly visible along the valley. And the short jaunt to the pass, free from our backpacks, was invigorating. Bright explosions of wild flowers dotted the entire area surrounding the trail. Beatty Glacier, a large hanging glacier, provided dramatic views until the pass. The pass itself was one of the best I’ve seen in the Rocky Mountains. The lovely Maude Lake sits beneath the pass, also amazingly stocked with Cutthroat Trout at some point. Apparently, people were catching fish that weekend, and merits bringing a collapsible fly rod in the future. The mountains surrounding the pass were vibrantly green, mimicking Scottish highlands. And on a clear day, you should be able to see expansive views into British Columbia’s Height of the Rockies provincial park. We briefly set foot into BC, but the trail beyond was sketchy and steep, and so we hung around Maude Lake, stopping to think about what we might do on a clearer day in this wondrous pass. 

 

The rain didn’t stop, so rather than risk another downpour, we decided to pack up while the afternoon weather was still clear. The hike down was just as entertaining as the hike up, and provided open views at the switchback which were not available when hoofing it up. We reached the car in just over 3 hours, right when threatening clouds were moving in over the pass. Our hunch about the weather turned to be correct. Sometimes, instinct is the best knowledge when hiking.

 

We rewarded ourselves by driving to Canmore and stopping at the Rose and Crown for a few pints and greasy food. A menacing thunderstorm moved over the small resort town, taking out television signals and pounding the area with heavy rainfall. That could have easily taken out our tent, high in the alpine. Why would one take such risks (and invest money) to be so left in such a vulnerable place?

 

It’s a question that’s hard to answer, but I found one possible way to do so during this hike. While ambling through a viewless forest section, I began talking about my uncertainties in life, especially concerning my future prospects in jobs and education. Thoughts began to cloud my mind as we bounded on, that is, until I reached the sharp switchback. And like a light switch, my mind was suddenly focused at the task at hand, the views exploding from all sides, the strain throughout my body. This is meditation at its finest: a focus on the now… and a reprieve from the second guesses that litter the routine of the average twenty-something individual.

 

-Chris Emmerling

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Gear Review: Mountain Equipment Co-op’s Tarn 3

Our first gear review! I’ll start off by saying I’m not getting any products for free, I bought this stuff after doing research for my personal needs and am not plugging any of the companies listed below or in future reviews.

The product I’ll be review today will be MEC’s Tarn 3 tent.

When looking for a tent I wanted something that was not to heavy, easy to set up, had enough room for a few people or a couple and gear. I took a look at MEC’s catalogue and had a few tents in mind that I wanted to look at and potentially buy. At first the Tarn was not on my radar but after finding that my store didn’t have the original tent I wanted I started looking for others. I talked to Ryan to see what kind of tent he had and he mentioned this one to me. There was a floor model set up of the Tarn 2 and after getting in it with Megan I decided to get the Tarn 3.

It has long been my belief that tents are constantly labeled as bigger than they actually are. I have a 5 man tent which I affectionately refer to as the Stewart mansion but in all honesty it sleeps 4 comfortably. Being a bigger tent it is cold and heavy and not to portable. It is also difficult to put up.

I didn’t have this problem with the Tarn. It has 3 aluminum poles, two for each side and one for the entrance way. Pole loops are conveniently color coordinated so if you’re too tired to function or to drunk to speak you can put this tent up properly. The fly has the same color coordinated loopholes so that’s not a problem either. The fly features windows and a large vent which I kept open for the entire trip. The best part of the tent was that it was warm and dry, essentials in any camping situation. It rained on Friday night and we had no problems with water getting in the tent, wicking through the walls, pooling below us or even coming in through the vent. On the morning I left I hung the fly to dry before I rolled it. Size of the tent is great, Megan and I slept very comfortable and had room for our gear bags as well. The fly also creates a vestibule that is perfect for putting your muddy or wet footwear for the night. Inside the tent there are various loopholes to hang flashlights or whatever else; you can see this from the outside in my second last photo.

I have set the tent up in the dark both times and had no problems. The biggest problem was waiting for the fly to dry after the weekend, which in the end wasn’t a problem at all because I took the rest of the camp apart while I was waiting for it to dry. I purchased the footprint for the tent as well and it kept things nice and dry on the bottom. As with any tent make sure you have the proper sleeping pad as up to 60% of your body heat may be lost to the ground while sleeping. The bag it comes with can be used with or without the poles in it and can be reduced in size to fit in your pack if you pack the poles separately.

Vital Stats

Price: $226.00 (Footprint $27)

3 Season Tent

Weight: 3.6 kg (Roughly 6.8 pounds)

Packs down to: 20 x 63cm

Capacity: 2-3 people

Fly Waterproof to 2000mm

Floor waterproof to 10000mm

Poles: DAC 7001 T6 aluminum (9mm diameter)

Area: 3.5 sq Meters

Coated with Polyurethane (fly and floor)

Comes in two colors, Driftwood (pictured) and Dijon

Overall I recommend this tent to anyone who is looking for a good tent at a reasonable price. I can’t wait to sleep in it again.

 

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Atlas Mine Ghost Tour

Part of our time in the badlands was spent at the Atlas Mine. While looking for a ghost town, which evidently we could not find we came across the atlas mine and after getting out of the car we signed up for a ghost tour of the mine that started at 7pm that night. We returned a bit before 7 pm after doing a bit of hiking and having lunch back at camp.

Here is some background about mining in the Badlands. Coal in the badlands was formed horizontally making it much easier and safer to mine. The coal is sub-bituminous; basically meaning it is an “immature” grade of coal and has had less time to produce methane gas, which is a big problem in other mines around the world. It was great coal for heating homes and cooking food. The mines brought in people from all over the North America and Europe. The Atlas Coal Mine closed about 20 years ago.

The Atlas Mine is a national historic site and tours are offered from May to mid October. There are a few different guided tours offered for very reasonable rates. The Tunnel Tour is $12 per person and takes you into one of the mine tunnels. The tipple tour is $9 per person and offers a look inside Canada’s last wooden tipple. There is a Train Tour in a Coal car which is also $9 per person and is above ground. The tour we chose was the Ghost Tour which was $9 per person and started at 7 pm in the evening. The Ghost tour is only available from late June to early September. For those who want to explore the site themselves you may do so for $7 a person. All guided tours include site admission.

The ghost tour was awesome. I won’t get into many details because you have to see it for yourself but if you’re looking for a tour that’s a bit different, complete with some ghost stories, then this is for you. Our guide Matt was great and since we were hanging around looking at things after the tour we got to see a bit more as a bonus. I highly recommend this to anyone who is in the badlands area, for its history, stories and its general look into the history of a coal miner.

Here are a few snaps I took on the tour, it was funny but after hearing some of the stories Matt mentioned on the tour I started taking pictures of windows just incase a spirit was lurking in the shadows. The contact info for the mine can be found below the pictures. Enjoy!

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Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site

Box 521, 110 Century Dr.
East Coulee, Alberta, Canada
T0J 1B0

http://www.atlascoalmine.ab.ca/home.html

Phone (403) 822-2220
Fax (403) 822-2225

info@atlascoalmine.ab.ca

Drumheller

Last time Megan and I traveled down to Calgary to visit Ryan and Dominika they mentioned we should do a trip down south. Originally we decided to go to the Castle River falls, however the weekend before when Ryan and I were looking at maps and travel times we decided it might have been a tad to far to drive on a Friday after work. Considering I took a pile of time off for a few events I usually work on in August I knew I wouldn’t be able to take more time off to drive a full day to get there. I defiantly want to go there some day but it would probably happen on a long weekend. The drive would have been around 7 hours for me and about 3 for Ryan.

I put it out there that we should meet in the middle and either do somewhere near Rocky Mountain House, or go to the badlands and explore what it had to offer. With a bit more discussion we decided on the badlands for a few reasons. I had never been camping there, and we usually go camping in the mountains. Megan and I would drive down on Friday after work, and Ryan and Domi would head down first thing Saturday morning.

I did a bit of research on campgrounds and found a pile of them. Most of them are RV parks which totally turn me off but after a bit of digging I found a few that would be suitable for what we wanted. We ended up deciding on a campground called Pinter’s Campground and Riverside Acres. It boasted a bunch of sites that were “well treed”, a group site and some powered sites for RVs and trailers as well. Camping is comparable to provincial recreation areas at $15 per night. Pinter’s is also located on the Red Deer River and has a beach you could hang out on. Being a family campsite there were kids everywhere. This was a deterrent for me to stay here again. While the campsite was clean and well kept, I did not enjoy having noisy kids around all the time. Pinter’s Campground is located in the town of Rosedale and is about a 15 minute walk from the Rosedale Suspension Bridge.

Saturday morning, woken by the sound of screaming children I started cooking breakfast. I had never used my camping pots and was determined to try them. I don’t know why I didn’t try them sooner, possibly because when I head out camping there is so much other cooking stuff I never needed to. I think the other reason was that I didn’t want to ruin them but I bit the bullet and cooked up a storm. Breakfast ended up being 4 courses, with Scrambled Eggs, some nice crispy Bacon, Hash browns and some maple beans. Ryan and Domi pulled in shortly after and we strung a tarp up before heading out to hike the Hoodoo Trail. It didn’t turn out to be much of a hike because the map markers are marked on a very small scale but we took some good photos.

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On Saturday afternoon we did walk over to the suspension bridge after having some lunch. Across the river from the suspension bridge is an old coal mine which still has some remnants of it left. You’re free to explore the hills which we did.

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Sunday Afternoon at a Private Trout Pond

This past weekend wrapped up my busiest time of year. During the last week of July and the first few weeks of August I work on the Heritage Festival in Edmonton. Traditionally we have to be wrapped up by the Saturday after the festival, and for the past few years I have hosted a rocking party at my house. This accounts for the lack of updates on my part, which first and foremost I apologize for. Back to the story…

My Uncle Frank who I work on the festival with, asked if on the Sunday I could drive his fifth wheel trailer back to his farm out near Blackfalds and to my amazement I said yes. I wasn’t worried about getting there but was worried about towing the trailer as I had never driven something like that before. After some white knuckle driving in town and getting used to the electric brakes, I hit the highway and was rolling at 100kph with Colin hot on my tail driving the chase vehicle.

The plan was to help Frank set up some tents for his upcoming wedding and then go fishing for the afternoon. I wasn’t sure where or what kind of fishing we would be doing so I brought the majority of my gear. When we got there most of the work was already done and with plenty of people still hanging out we got the last and biggest tent off the ground and on legs in no time. Frank had a bit of other work to do around the farm and joined us later on. Colin and I headed out with Frank’s brother, Jim, to the trout pond. We got to the back pasture and near a stand of trees there was a pond which was roughly a 200 feet by 200 feet. It could have been bigger or smaller but I’m going to go with my original estimate. Jim also mentioned it was about 20 feet deep.

Jim, had purchased about 325 Rainbow Trout in the spring and filled the pond. There was a variety of sizes, 75 10-12 inch trout, 100 7-8 inch trout and the rest were fingerlings. Now I thought that it would be like shooting fish in a barrel, but every time there seems to be a situation that is favorable for catching fish I get skunked. I got both my rods rigged up and switched between them both a few times. At about the time I was tying a new fly on, Colin pulled in his first Rainbow. Frank had showed up after his chores and I switched to my spin caster while he tooled around with my fly rod. the fishing had slowed right down and the sun was high in the sky. by now and everyone was coming up empty we decided to Call it, It was super hot and we were all pretty sure all the fisher were handing out at the bottom where it was cool. Colin had reeled in 3 fish and Jim had 2 fish, I goosed egged it, so we went for burgers and beer at a local roadhouse before heading home.

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Discouraged but not totally disheartened I made a few phone calls to see if anyone wanted to hit the honey hole on the river. I knew Logan was always down and after a short phone call he was in and Colin was the next one on the list. But the fishing wasn’t the story on this night. It was the storm that rolled in. I was having an after work nap and Logan called asking if I thought it was going to storm, which of course I replied no to. When we got to the hole fish were starting to rise up and down the short like crazy and we all tried to pick a good spot to toss our lures. Then it started to rain, and rain and rain. Later on the radio said that 80mm of rain fell in about an hour. Luckily we headed back to the truck before that and after getting total soaked when I ran to the house to change into some dry clothes Colin and I drove down to his house to do the same. Here is a video I shot on my iPhone on his front street. Wild weather is an understatement.