A Moderately Stunning Reversal

After the better part of a year of preparation, this past week marks the official beginning of my schooling as a nurse, and the end of my career as a computer programmer. While the program is by all accounts very exacting, for the first time in a long time I genuinely feel that I’m on the right path. Things are looking up!

As it happens, I had previously tried to transfer into the nursing program during my undergraduate degree several years ago, but events conspired to thwart my attempt. After taking almost all of the prerequisite courses for the transfer program, I was told that the minimum GPA to even be considered for the transfer route was 3.85. Now despite busting my ass to do well in these prerequisites, a few sub-par grades in a prior semester resulted in my overall GPA falling short by a full grade point. Needless to say I was disheartened and, because I was young and foolish, didn’t bother sending in an official application for the nursing program, presumably to save myself the “certain” disappointment.

The immense folly of this was brought to my attention last summer however, when I was applying for the program I’m currently in. I was chatting with the undergraduate nursing advisor about something or other to do with the application, and I told my little story about trying to get in via the transfer route before. When I finished regaling her she had quite a pained look on her face, and while I know my delivery skills were by no means perfect, I never imagined they were that bad. Fortunately for my future as a teller of anecdotes, the cause of her discomfort was the fact that for the past several years, the admissions office had been erroneously advising potential applicants that the minimum required GPA was 3.85, when in fact it was nowhere near as high. Had I decided to just apply, I probably would have made it into the program all those years ago.

As much as I had a good laugh about it at the time, knowing that I more or less let this opportunity slip past me, and being keenly aware that I haven’t achieved as much as I’d hoped to by this stage in my life, I’ll admit to a few pangs of disappointment now and again. But here’s the thing, despite wanting go into nursing before, I can’t for the life of me remember the reasons behind that desire, apart from not wanting to continue with computer science. I now have clear and definite reasons for pursuing nursing, and the certainty (as much as one can be certain about anything) that it will be a good fit for me. Had I made it into nursing back then, I’m not sure my younger self would have been as well suited to it as I believe myself to be now. Things appear to have worked out as well as could be reasonably hoped for.

Digressions aside, after 24 continuous months I will have completed a Bachelor’s in Nursing, and the NCLEX won’t be far behind. Here’s to unceasing forward motion!

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Endurance

Calling the event’s of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition an adventure hardly seems to do justice to the monumental, indeed super-human, feats accomplished by the crew of the Endurance. Alfred Lansing’s book of the same name is a riveting account of what is almost certainly one of, if not the most incredible story of survival against all odds.

The events described therein are almost too incredible to be believed, so extreme that it defies comprehension that any one could have survived them. Terrifying ocean crossings, crumbling ice floes, massive storms and unceasing Antarctic temperatures, Lansing makes you feel like you are right there with them. This book will absolutely drag you in and capture your attention completely.

Endurance is exceptional not only for the story that it tells, but the way in which is does so. All surviving members of the expedition were extensively interviewed about their experiences, and the journals of all members who kept them (of which there were many) were used as well. While the 2 year ordeal of the crew was full of hellish trials, the day to day lives of the men are captured incredibly well. Whether from a moment of intense fear and danger, or the boredom of life on Elephant Island, the personality of the men shines through. I finished this book with a sense that I “knew” the crew almost intimately, which given the size of the book and number of characters, is incredible.

I genuinely loved this book, putting it down was always difficult while picking it back up was very easy. Even knowing what happens, thinking back to any of the events portrayed I find myself just as excited and on-edge as I was when I was first reading. I really can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Travel

It’s incredible how every so often you’ll come across a poem, whole or in part, that has the power to stop you dead in your tracks. Leonard Cohen really knew what he was on about.

Travel

Loving you, flesh to flesh, I often thought
Of travelling penniless to some mud throne
Where a master might instruct me how to plot
My life away from pain, to love alone
In the bruiseless embrace of stone and lake,

Lost in the fields of your hair I was never lost
Enough to find a way I had to take;
Breathless beside your body I could not exhaust
The will that forbid me contract, vow,
Or promise, and often while you slept
I looked in awe beyond your beauty.

Now
I know why many men have stopped and wept
Halfway between the loves they leave and seek
And wondered if travel leads them anywhere –
Horizons keep the soft line of your cheek,
The windy sky’s a locket for your hair.

Leonard Cohen

Rummel Lake

While summer has departed for another year, shoulder season is upon us so my hiking series will continue! Though I doubt I’ll be getting out to the mountains as often as I did over the summer, I fully intend to do a few hikes during the fall, and then bust out my snowshoes when winter rears its not-traditionally-attractive head.

As far as purely recreational outings go, my shoulder season began earlier this week with a trip up to Rummel Lake, and I’ve gotta say I had a very good time out there.

The trailhead is immediately opposite the turn-off to the Mount Engadine Lodge on the Smith-Dorien Trail, so in all likelihood you’ll wind up parking just off the road nearby. The trail itself is very well defined so once you’re on it you shouldn’t have any issues finding your way along.

Eventually the trail will come to a fork, with signs indicating the hiking trail continues to your right, while a cross-country skiing route crosses a little bridge to your left. Either way will get you to the lake, but I would highly recommend taking the walking path instead of the skiing trail. The hiking route follows the creek much more, which is always nice, and will bring you a lovely little waterfall, pictured below:

The lake itself is fantastic and the view of the mountains behind it is really quite something, particularly with the fog rolling in as it was when I was there.

While I imagine the trail would be significantly busier on a nice summer day, as far as easy and relaxing hikes go, you really can’t go wrong with Rummel Lake


As an aside, it’s always kind of fun doing hikes when there’s snow on the ground and a single person has broken the trail ahead of you. Unless they’re some sort of route-finding guru, they tend to to backtrack a few times, and imagining them in that moment always gets me chuckling (not in a malicious way, I think its hilarious when I finally realize or admit to myself I’m heading in the wrong direction). Gotta enjoy the little things.

Lost Lake

As you may or may not have noticed, the frequency of posts in my hiking series has declined of late. This has been in part due to my not getting out to the mountains as much the past few weeks, and partly because in retrospect I felt the last couple posts were not all that fun to read. I’ve been called a number of things in my day, but I really, really don’t want dry to be added to the list. Hopefully this little hiatus has got the creative juices going.

But on to the important bit, a review of my visit to Lost Lake last Thursday. It’s not an especially well travelled or discussed trail, particularly in comparison to the other hikes in the area, even the mighty Barry only seems to mention it in passing. But, despite a rather embarrassing wrong turn further exacerbated by my own pig-headedness, I can honestly say it was and is a lovely hike.

Initially the hike follows the Galatea trail, which is always a nice little jaunt. After crossing several bridges and travelling 4ish km, the trail diverges onto the Lost Lake trail proper. The trail isn’t terribly well defined in all cases, and you’ll need to be prepared for a hell of a lot of deadfall to go over, around, and in a few cases, possibly under. However, this means that in all likelihood you won’t have to share the path with anyone else, which always makes a day out in the mountains even better.

Upon reaching Lost Lake however we found a truly massive grizzly bear frolicking in the water. It was easily the largest bear I’ve ever seen in my entire life, if I had to guess I’d say he must have weighed in at 1500 lbs. Upon noticing the bathing behemoth, I snapped a single, inevitably inadequate photo and hastily retreated back the way we had come. Despite my short visit, I can say with some confidence that the view of Rummel Pass behind Lost Lake was quite something.

It’s really quite incredible the amount of energy you can dredge up upon seeing a bear, assuming you have the good sense to have your sighting become an encounter. Approaching the lake, I was definitely ready to enjoy a nice sit down on the shore with a bag of GORP. But the moment I saw that fella I felt I could have run a marathon, snacks and sore feet be damned.

I fully intend to take another stab at Lost Lake, hopefully before this season ends.

Happy trails folks!

Neuromancer

I just got around to reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and while I may be 30 some years late to this particular party (fashionably late perhaps?), I can say with a great deal of confidence that its a spectacular book well worth reading.

I think a lot of people get caught up in the ‘science’ part of science fiction and forget that blinking lights and flashing consoles a good story does not necessarily make. The science is just the backdrop, it’s the characters and how they interact with that science which makes a compelling story, and as far as I’m concerned, Neuromancer passes this test with flying colours. But even more, the ideas running throughout, whether they be relating to advances in AI, body modification or something in between are not only intriguing in a purely academic sense, but have had noticeable cultural impacts well beyond its readership.

Looking beyond the content of the novel, the writing is definitely worthy of praise as well. The context of the story are presented seamlessly throughout, the most unusual concepts are made to seem completely mundane, because in this world they truly are. An understanding of the background is built piece by piece, but in a way that feels completely organic. As a friend of mine said on the subject: “No one ever stops to explain how their iPhone works”.

If you haven’t read Neuromancer, do yourself a favour and fix that.

Donuts and Self-Doubt

I’ve had some fairly odd dreams in my day, but a recent one has been deeply memorable for the strangest of reasons. But before we dive into the dream itself, there’s some backstory that will need to be covered.

I don’t have very strong feelings about donuts. They’re alright, but on those rare occasions when I have some, I’ll inevitably come to regret doing so pretty quickly. Despite all this, I do have a favourite type of donut, but as I said before, they’re not something I ever find myself thinking about unless they’re free and sitting right in front of me.

Now back to the dough of the issue. Throughout this particular dream I found myself not only eating donuts, but enjoying them more than any other food I’ve ever had, and by a considerable margin at that. The passionate intensity of my feelings towards donuts was truly staggering. I couldn’t stop thinking how amazing donuts were in general, but also how this particular type of donut was infinitely better than all other kinds of donuts.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that this little tale is at best mildly amusing, but certainly not worth the memory to which its been written, and you’d be right if that was the end of it (indeed you might still be right regardless). But that’s not the end of it, because the particular type of donut that in my dream might as well have been baked and glazed ambrosia, is not actually the type of donut I like in reality, far from it.

Now I’ve long since realized that “dream Jeff” is on the whole full of shit and not to be taken too seriously. However I find myself unable to shake the creeping feeling that I’m engaging in some self-deception regarding my preference in doughnuts This would be bizarre to say the least. In fact I’d say its bizarre to even be dwelling on the possibility, given its complete irrelevance and triviality, yet here I am.

So yeah, I’ve had donuts on the brain recently.

Sparrowhawk Tarns

Sparrowhawk Tarns is relatively quiet trail that shares a trailhead with Mt. Sparrowhawk and Read’s Tower. The trailhead is more or less opposite the Sparrowhawk day-use area, there’ll be a well-defined path across the Smith-Dorien leading west into the trees. After a gentle start you’ll quickly start experiencing some elevation gain, and part-way through this you’ll come to a three-way junction. For this hike the correct path is the centre one, which continues up the mountain at roughly the same angle. Rather embarrassingly I wasn’t paying attention and took the rightmost path for a little while, which leads to what would be a very nice bike trail, but certainly doesn’t lead to the tarns.

Continuing beyond this fork, you’ll quickly come to another fork, with the NE path leading up towards Mt. Sparrowhawk proper, and the SE path continuing towards Sparrowhawk tarns. Beyond this point you’re just going to continue following the trail, ensuring that you’re travelling in a general SE direction.

Eventually you’ll clear the trees and see you’ve entered a cool little valley with Red Ridge to the SW. The easy part is now over, and you’ll need to go over a great deal of rock and scree. As far as I could tell there isn’t really a trail through the rock field, so you’ll end up just picking your way through wherever you deem to be easiest. You won’t be able to see the tarns for a while, but rest assured they are in fact there, you just need to keep pressing on towards the back of the valley. Upon reaching the top of the final hill you’ll have a very nice view of the tarns below you, as well as of Spray Lake behind you.

The only pieces of advice I have for anyone attempting this hike is make to sure you’ve got a decent pair of boots on as the last stretch provides plenty of opportunities for twisted ankles, and to be mindful of the route you take up to the tarns, as the forested area just after the rock field can be slightly confusing on the way back down.

If you’re fond of spending time by little mountain lakes and aren’t in the mood for dealing with a lot of other people, Sparrowhawk Tarns is definitely a hike for you!


As a parting note, I got a good chuckle out of finding a couple of beers stashed in the snow on the edge of the tarn. Whoever they belong to, I salute your ingenuity 🙂

The Orphan

As far as I can tell, The Orphan is not a very well known hike, I only discovered it myself by looking through my Gem Trek map of the Canmore and Kananaskis Village area. It’s by no means a trivial hike, but the views from the top were truly amazing.

You won’t find any signage or an obvious trailhead for The Orphan. Instead, you’ll be starting at a torn-up creek bed just NW of the Driftwood day use area. If you walk West along the Smith-Dorien from the Driftwood parking lot you won’t be able to miss it. The first portion of the hike is simply following this creek up towards the mountain. The creek was severely damaged by the floods, so be prepared to cross it several times as you work your way up.

You’ll continue following the creek until the path forks into two routes up the mountain. The west route is a fairly steep scree and rock slope that will require some scrambling, but is certainly doable. The east route however is an absolute death trap and I would strongly advise you to avoid it at all costs. It consists of a series of huge, angled stone slabs running up the slope. Combined with water this rock is slicker than ice, and if you slip on it you’ll quickly find yourself hurtling down the mountain.

After the, you’ll find yourself on a really quite nice mountain meadow leading up to a ridge between 2 peaks. Be prepared for some gale strength winds as you push further up the meadow, it will feel like all of the wind in Kananaskis is being funnelled out over this ridge. Upon reaching the ridge you’ll be able to see your goal, a stone outcropping to the north or, if you’re feeling like doing some climbing the peak, itself. Carefully pick your way up the final slope to the outcropping and you’ll be greeted with an awe-inspiring view. The Three Sisters loom up to the NW, to the NE you’ll be able to see as far as Ghost Lake, Rimwall to the SE, and you’ll have a brilliant view of Spray Valley behind you to the SW. There’s a video showing a 360 view from the top on my Instagram if you’re interested.

There are some things you should bear in mind for this hike. Solid boots with good ankle support are a must, there is a lot of difficult and varied terrain you’ll need to cover with lots of potential twisted ankles. Crossing back and forth over the creek won’t pose much of a challenge in the morning, but as the water level rises in the afternoon, you’ll find significantly fewer opportunities to safely cross on your return journey. Take precautions against ticks, this means tucking your shirt in, wearing a hat and gaiters, using bug spray and doing a tick check afterwards. I can confirm there are ticks up there, though I was fortunate enough to avoid getting bit. Gloves will also come in very handy for the scrambling portions of the hike.

The Orphan is a hidden gem, and I would highly recommend tackling it if you’re up for a bit of a challenge.

Bear Spray and Bad Habits

This isn’t a new trend by any means, but lately I’ve noticed a lot people in the backcountry carrying bear spray in the side pouches of their packs. This is really, really foolish and is basically the same as not bringing it at all.

If you’re unfortunate enough to get into a situation where you need to use your bear spray, you’ve got to have it out at a moment’s notice. Bears can run unbelievably fast, and there will not be time to go rooting through your pack.

I’ve seen a few people attach it to the shoulder straps of their packs, and while this is an improvement over the side pouch method, its still not ideal because you could potentially become separated from your pack, and thus from your bear spray. Myself, I like to use a carabiner to clip my bear spray onto one of my belt loops so its always handy, and also easily adjustable if for whatever reason I need to rearrange things.

Bottom line is if you’re going out into the bush, not only should you be carrying non-expired bear spray that you know how to use, it should be within reach at all times. Better safe than mauled folks.