Monday, September 30, 2013

Alberta Bound, Alberta Bound

A little waxing poetic by Gordon Lightfoot

Oh the prairie lights are burnin' bright
The Chinook wind is a-movin' in
Tomorrow night I'll be Alberta bound
Though I've done the best I could
My old luck ain't been so good and
Tomorrow night I'll be Alberta bound
No one-eyed man could e'er forget
The Rocky Mountain sunset
It's a pleasure just to be Alberta bound
I long to see my next of kin
To know what kind of shape they're in
Tomorrow night I'll be Alberta bound
Alberta bound, Alberta bound
It's good to be Alberta bound
Alberta bound, Alberta bound
It's good to be Alberta bound

Oh the skyline of Toronto
Is somethin' you'll get onto
But they say you've got to live there for a while
And if you got the money
You can get yourself a honey
A written guarantee ta make you smile
But it's snowin' in the city
And the streets and brown and gritty
And I know there's pretty girls all over town
But they never seem ta find me
And the one I left behind me
Is the reason that I'll be Alberta bound

Alberta bound, Alberta bound
It's good to be Alberta bound
Alberta bound, Alberta bound
It's good to be Alberta bound
It's good to be Alberta bound

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Tour Of The Niagara River

As I prepare for the journey to the oil fields of Alberta, Bama and I decided we needed to see some of the great places along the Niagara River. The sun was shining, the fall sky clear blue and I had a fist full of free attraction passes courtesy of Meema and her tenure with the Niagara Parks.

Pier and Lighthouse at Port Dalhousie
Bama and I tend to spend allot of our time along the river and its crazy how we always seem to find ourselves sipping coffee or tea (or beer and wine) along the waters edge. Chippawa creek (or the crik as its called), Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Port Dalhousie,  Decew falls, the Upper River and along so many smaller water ways that make their way through the area. Hidden gems that so many of the local either do not know about nor do they seem to care. However like any place when you live there you tend to go through your day to day and forget to take a minute and breathe and look around.

We started with a hike in the gorge. You can enter the trail at a few places but I like the trail head near the Niagara Parks Golf Course. After descending some man made and steepish steps you enter an idyllic trail that leads down to the whirlpool. This is a real easy trek down to the river however as you
Trail Head Stairs
descent you quickly realize how quiet it becomes. You loose the noise from the road and parking lot above and the only noises you hear are your footsteps and the faint sound of the river below.  Now I have done this trek hundreds of times over the years. Alone, with out of town family and of course Bama but it NEVER EVER gets boring.
When you get to the bottom you walk through the bush and the whirlpool appears before you. The end of the Niagara Rapids dead ahead, huge bay littered with fisherman, aero car over head along with a view of the lower and train bridge. It is an amazing sight.

The trek is easy and you go our to the left around the bay to the point where the rivers turns towards lake Ontario. A good spot to just chill and take it all in. If you have been there you know what I mean. Then along the river the trail slowly goes up and you pass the bonfires remains of teenage parties (a rite of passage in this area) and more fisherman. As you ascend up the trail past huge boulders you can almost feel the history of the natives peoples who use to call this home. A great 90 minute trek that any tourist and local should find the time to do. This hike totally energizes you, mind, body and soul

Next up was something I had never done in all my time in the Falls (I am a product of exactly what I said about going through the day to day). It was Maid of the Mist time and I was excited.
For years I have seen the boats from every possible angle except from the deck of one of them. The $19 price was reasonable but you had to navigate the standard shops and trinket sellers to find the ticket booth.  A meandering walkway led to the quick elevator ride down and before you knew it we were on the deck of the boat with our cheap blue rain jackets. One look up river at both the American and Horseshoe falls and you knew this trip was going to be special. Horn blast and off we went.
Slowly we passed the American Falls with a spectacular view of the talas and cascade. Then the boat turned towards the thunder of the Horseshoe. The water started churning and we bounced a bit, me handing onto the rails and Bama hanging onto me. Suddenly it hits you like a spring shower right in the face. The energizing mist. I had bama close her eyes and tilt her head back, just listen. When you do that you can isolate the sounds of the falls, the mist and the river from that of the squealing co passengers who were also having a great time. We sat in the mist for about 5 minutes and the positive feeling of having that spray drench you with the warm sun is what any adventure is about. I had the same experience at Iguazu in Argentina however I found this shared experience in my home town so much better.

With a quick stop at Jacks French Fry Truck downtown  (if you have been there you know what I mean) we were off to the great gorge trip or the White Water Walk as it is now called.
Let me tell you, nothing puts the power of the Niagara River into perspective then standing on a boardwalk right beside some of the fastest and most dangerous rapids in the world. I found this short Video on You Tube and these rapids are considered Class 6
 ** From Wiki** While there is some debate over the term "Class 6", in practice it refers to rapids that are not passable and any attempt to do so would result in serious injury, near drowning or death

 I will repeat myself, the views amazing. As we were standing just staring at the rapids Bama quietly said " I am being drawn in". The power of an honest observation as this river has mystical drawing powers.

Our Final stop for the day, the Whirlpool Aerocar.  With its old world charm and views of both up and down the river plus the whirlpool this was a great way to end the trip.  No explanation really needed however you do get a great view of the gorge trek from above.

Some thoughts about the Niagara River and Niagara Region. As I said, for an area so spectacular naturally I still can not shake the black cloud of doom that hangs over the town. Maybe its the work and make as much as you can in a short period mentality (yes I lived it) or the get as much as you can from the tourists as possible I do not really know. There are great people here that do amazing things and the area is littered with history, but that black cloud always seems to suck out the positive of any visit.

Finally there are so many amazing places to visit once you get past the Casino and Clifton Hill. The river from Fort Erie to Niagara on the lake is dotted with memorials and Forts from the War of 1812, the vineyards go with out saying, Niagara on the Lake is charming for a short period (niagara falls lite really), but do your homework. Find Decew Falls, visit Queenston and hike the Bruce Trail, visit the locks at Port Colbourne and have a cold beer at a canal side cafe while the lakes pass within 200 feet. Either way its up to you, drink that expensive over price pint or get out there!

The view from the upper river at sunset, nothing wrong with that

** Good Reads
Niagara A History of the Falls by Pierre Burton
White Death, the Blizzard of 77 by Erno Rossi

Monday, September 23, 2013

Go West Young Man

Nineteen months ago I returned from the amazing experience that was Central and South America plus Antarctica. In that time the experiences have been interesting to say the least. However with the job market in the Niagara Region among the worst in the country I am taking up the journey that almost happened 30 years ago but never had the courage to do. I am heading to the Alberta Oil Sands to get work.

"Go West Young Man"
The lure of the West. You find it in history, literature, music, poetry and art. "Go West, young man" is a quote by American author Horace Greeley concerning America's expansion westward, related to the then-popular concept of Manifest Destiny. The actual quote being..Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.

"Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles." "That," I said, "is very frank advice, but it is medicine easier given than taken. It is a wide country, but I do not know just where to go." "It is all room away from the pavements.

The phrase captured the imaginations of clerks, mechanics, and soldiers returning from the Civil War, many of whom moved west to take up a homestead.

In the next while I will write about my experiences of the last 19 months. From being with the greatest girl I have ever known, to getting fired from Thomson Reuters for calling an umbrella gay. Yes sir you read it right, calling an umbrella gay. From working with the most unethical and egotistical douches I have ever met at the Streaming Network to delivering pizzas and doing manual labour for $12 an hour. Moving 3 times to 3 different cities, experiencing a loved one with cancer, the joys of Kijiji, road trips, and touching base with old friends. The "black cloud" hanging over the psyche and soul of Niagara Falls.

"The west is the best, Get here and we'll do the rest"  wrote Jim Morrison. 

Its my time!