Hiking: Mountain Bunkers

Back in March of this year, 2022, we made yet another long weekend into a family adventure getaway to the mountains. With few plans besides a booked hotel suite and our hiking gear, we landed in the town of Canmore after a four hour spring drive.

A year earlier we had zipped off to the same general area (but a different side of the mountain and a different set of plans) and had done some fun, easy hikes but then had a crazy winter drive back home at the end of it all.

While the forecast turned out to be more cooperative this trip, we were a lot less prepared for what to do with our relatively pleasant weather. So when I suggested a short hike to try and find the mysterious nuclear fallout bunker on the side of a nearby mountain, there were few objections.

for whatever one photo is worth:

If you stand at the mouth of the Heart Creek Bunker and look North (and down) you can easily see the Trans-Canada Highway snaking by in the valley below, rounding the corner of Lac des Arcs and disappearing around the far end of the same mountain upon which you are standing.

The bunker is not difficult to find, though the route is not clearly marked as to what you will see when you embark on the short two kilometer trail part way up the side of a cliff face.

In fact, if it wasn’t for various social media and independent hiking guide sites I doubt many people beside the locals who live in nearby Canmore would know about this odd little gem.

As the story goes, the bunker was started (but never finished) in the late 1960s as “part of a Cold War-era plan to keep important government records safe in the event of a disaster, up to and including a nuclear bomb.”

But it leaked, water dripping through the porous rock, and then too political tides changed and I’m sure the whole endeavor became financially unfeasible so… now there is a cave dug out a couple hundred meters into the side of a mountain, and a narrow, unmarked trail through the forest leading to its entrance.

There were three other hiking parties there when we arrived in the mid-morning, and also about a half dozen other dogs. We chatted and let the dogs play and took each other’s photos at the mouth of the cave.

Then we went in.

It was pitch black inside save for the lights we carried with us.

I took as many pictures as I could in the dim light and recorded some video:

The walls were marked with graffiti and messages from past visitors as the site is apparently popular with locals for parties and late night fun and light painting and boondocking.

The dog was spooked by the whole experience and she needed to be carried out after less than ten minutes in the pitch black and eerily quiet cave.

And then … we turned our back and returned down the mountain path to our car. On the ride home, spotty mountain internet service stretched to the limit, my wife who is usually a planning and research guru for our travels took the chance to finally look up the weird history of the strange mountain bunker we’d just visited. Even our server at dinner later that evening perked his ears and seemed curious that a trio of tourists had made their way up to the secret Canmore bunker.

Off-the-beaten path sights are not necessarily rare, but they are always weird and magical and mysterious when you find them… especially if you didn’t even plan on looking in the first place.

Travel: Galaxy’s Edge

It’s May the Fourth, which nerds and geeks like me all around the world celebrate as Star Wars Day in honour of the forty-fiver year old film franchise created by George Lucas and now recently owned and enhanced by Disney.

Four months ago, almost to the day, I was having a different sort of Star Wars day as I wandered through the modern theme park experience in Orlando, Florida, the hyper-themed Star Wars land in Disney World known as Galaxy’s Edge.

I’m not nearly as big of a Disney theme park fan as my wife, but I agreed to a two week Disney World vacation in the middle of a global pandemic for two reasons: (1) because I wanted to run the Disney World Half Marathon and (2) because I wanted to check out Disney’s effort to recreate the Star Wars film vibe in theme park form.

As to the latter of those travel dreams, we delved into the fantasy world of Star Wars for the better part of a day on New Years Day 2022.

I spent many of my first hours of this year wandering among rusty sci fi space ships, meandering among future-rustic market stalls, being chased by storm troopers on the Rise of the Resistance ride and again on Smuggler’s Run aboard the Millennium Falcon, and sampling weird beverages at the overpriced, but authentically themed, cantina bar (where they don’t serve droids!)

For any fan, myself included, it was going to be an enjoyable experience.

Yeah, it was crowded and, yeah, there was far too many enticing ways for Disney to separate fans from their money.

But for a fantasy adventure, and a way to spend a few hours as a Star Wars fan, I don’t know that there are many places like it on this planet.

May the fourth be with you.

Travel Tuesday: Magic Kingdom-ish

I’ve been a terrible daily blogger, but if you read my previous post a little over a week ago you already know that I just spent the last two weeks in Florida.

We’re home.

Fifteen hours in transit yesterday. Two flights. Three airports. Two COVID-19 tests. Virtually no food (thanks to supply chain troubles at the airports.) And a couple hours of jet lag, to top it all off.

Ahhhh … remind me again why I missed travelling so much?

I joke.


Traveling during a pandemic was a choice we made late last month with very heavy hearts. I don’t want to appear cavalier about it. We didn’t know even up until the departure morning when we woke up at 4am and got on the plane southbound that we were still going. We had a bailout plan right until the Orlando flight boarded. Ultimately came down to balancing personal risk, losing a lot of money if we cancelled, and setting some lowered expectations around the trip activities overall.

But. I have just spent the last two weeks wearing a medical grade N95 mask every time (no, every time) I was in public … and oh boy, were we ever in public. My face is chapped. My hands are raw from sanitizer. My mind is blurry from cognitive dissonance of immersing myself in that for so long and then coming back to almost-lockdown locally at home. I’m not sure I want to turn this post or blog into a rant about the mixed narratives being woven in Florida (and Disney World itself to be honest) about the severity of the pandemic, personal accountability, a culture of individual liberty, and the politicization of health care, but I just Jungle Cruised through the epicenter of pandemic insanity and survived to tell the tale.

I feel like I could write a few things worth reading.

At the core of our vacation, however, was doing the right things in the middle of the big wrong one. In retrospect, knowing what I know now, even having tested negative and made it home sans COVID, I think we probably should have cancelled. But we made a hundred choices each day about masks, touching surfaces, where to eat, how to transport from hotel to park and back again, when to be around other people, and when to pull the ripcord and just go back to the isolation of the hotel no matter how much fun it seemed like we were missing.

I’m going to let it all settle in a bit first, and over the next days and weeks I’ll likely write a lot about the recent travel experiences and opinions before getting back into the food and cast iron posts.

I had these dreams of writing great missives about our adventures directly from Florida, but in the blur of everything else, the days filled with theme parks and food and sketching (I did do a lot of sketching) sitting down to blog about it all just … fell by the wayside.

Plus, announcing that I wasn’t at home online didn’t seem like the smartest choice for many reasons including both home security and seeming to flout restrictions.


What did you want this year
… but not get?

If all goes well my travel-happy soul will find some relief in the near future, but if you are like me the one thing you probably didn’t get last year was a ride on a plane.

The last time I flew anywhere was a few months before the pandemic locked down the world, and as we zoomed over a surprisingly blue-skied Greenland I snapped some teasing photos of the snowy, iceberg covered landscape below.

Hopefully the story of 2022 is a little less grounded … for all of us who live to wander.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.