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California Wildfire Travel Guide

After I did my blog post on travelling to Yosemite in July, I felt it was critical to do a travel guide on California during wildfire season. I left out some stories in my post about the Mariposa fire and I will be sharing them here. In the last five years, wildfire season has been starting in California as early as May and going as late as November. The worst time is generally June-August and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better.

And look, I don’t care what you think the reasons for the wildfires are. If you are travelling to California during the times I mentioned, you HAVE to contingency plans for wildfires! It’s gone from California Dreaming to California Burning and it’s important to respect that.

Things to Pack:

  • Water cooler
  • Lots of water bottles
  • N95 masks
  • Moisturizing eye drops
  • Some dishtowels or other towels
  • A working cell phone and its charger

Here’s the why behind each of these. You are going to become sweaty, dehydrated and congested if you are anywhere close to a wildfire. If your accommodation offers free ice (I know Motel 6 does), double what you would normally need before you start travelling for the day. If you need to buy ice, follow the same rule. Take advantage of any way to prolong the ice melt. Fill up all your water bottles before you start your day as well. Lots of liquid might not completely stop you from feeling sweaty, dehydrated or congested, but it takes the edge off. Additionally, dip the small towels in the water to keep your face cool and if you want to breathe through them. Keep your eyes hydrated with eyedrops too!

Pack some N95 masks with you before you leave and make sure you know how to fit them properly. I can’t say how close you have to be to a wildfire to wear them. California has had wildfires a few hundred miles away from the Bay Area, but I still had to wear an N95. Extinguishing a wildfire releases a lot of smoke, and smoke travels wherever the wind goes. Or not. Another thing that’s important is smoke is not just from the trees burning. More chemicals are being released with properties burning. Therefore, it’s critical to protect your lungs. This bears repeating: You need a working, charged cell phone to stay on top of real-time updates if you are near a danger zone.

I will keep referring to this section throughout the post.

Driving Hacks:

Before you start driving, put your ice and water bottles in the coolest place in the cabin. Do NOT put them in the trunk! You’re going to need them! Additionally, check your cell phone for updates on road closures. If you run into firefighters who are off duty, ask them for any updates too. They don’t bite and they can help you plan for redirecting your route.

If you are driving in a smoky area, you have to turn your air-conditioning off. That’s easier said than done because, in California, anything that ends in “Valley” (Central Valley, Yosemite Valley) is going to have high temperatures. However, if you don’t turn your AC off, you will get smoke in the car and you can’t open your windows either to let the smoke out. The cabin can become a deathtrap quickly. If you have to turn the AC off, use the water and ice by any means necessary to stay cool.

If you are the driver, keep your eyes hydrated (just pull over before you put eyedrops in lol). I have had times when my eyes have run so much from the smoke, that it’s hard to see properly. Additionally, if smoke is obscuring your visibility, drive slower and do what you would do if you were driving at night in an unfamiliar area. Follow any driving directions from emergency services.

Should I Change My Travel Plans?:

Here’s why I don’t have a straight answer to this question. Even if you are planning on rerouting your trip to get away from the worst of the fire, you might still be affected by the smoke. In November 2018, the Camp Fire happened in Paradise California and there was another fire in Southern California at the same time. Since my university cancelled classes due to the Air Quality Index (AQI) being over 180, we thought of renting a car and driving to where the air quality was better. When we looked carefully, we realized that there was no point because we would have to drive hundreds of miles to get someplace with a better AQI.

Additionally, roads are highly likely to be clogged with people driving to less dangerous areas. Emergency services will redirect traffic to prioritize easy access to evacuees. I remember when the Camp Fire happened and I took Lyft home from university. At the best of times, it only took half an hour to drive from home to my university. This time, it took an hour and a half.

My answer to this question would be to research your options and check the AQI and traffic conditions along any routes you might use.

PLEASE DON’T DO THIS!!:

I’m going to whip a dead horse here. PLEASE DO NOT BE CARELESS WITH FLAMMABLE OBJECTS!!! Our terrain has become more sensitive to wildfires due to extreme drought for over a decade, and 70+ years of debris piling up from being too careful about fighting fires! Even though controlled burning is taking place in some places (I saw it outside Yosemite when I went there in December), the terrain might become too sensitive to fires.

If you are camping, or if you have flammable objects with you, follow local instructions. Signs in areas are changed daily to indicate wildfire risk. If you aren’t sure about using flammable objects in a certain area, ask a park ranger, or a local firefighter for advice. Recommendations change on a daily basis during fire season, so if you can use flammable objects one day, it doesn’t mean you can use them another day. A few years ago, we went camping in Northern California. We made sure we knew the campground fire rules and extinguished it properly before sleeping.

You can be fined for improper use of fire. One of the wildfires in 2020 was due to using explosives at a gender reveal party. The people responsible got one heck of a hefty fine! You can guarantee they will be paying it off for the rest of their lives!

Keep in Mind What It’s Really Like for Californians:

Here are some facts about wildfires in California. It doesn’t matter whether you are living in a city or the country, in a poor area or a rich area. We have all been affected by wildfires in one way or another. The first time Napa Valley had a wildfire, some people didn’t donate for wildfire relief because it’s a rich area. That shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Napa was affected by a natural disaster. Period. I saw both Mariposa and Paradise several months after the fires happened. It was nice to see Mariposa doing well. They get a lot of tourists going to Yosemite to boost their economy. Paradise looked like it had a long way to go to recover. Fire insurance doesn’t even begin to cover the damage from wildfires. Economics plays a big role and fires are already starting to affect housing prices in California.

I don’t know a single Californian who doesn’t hate Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) for having equipment failures causing sparks in vulnerable areas. One time, only a few sparks were needed to make an area go up like an oil spill fire! PG&E has been blatantly responsible for too many fires that could have been prevented! Lawsuits are still happening, but PG&E is using loopholes to avoid accountability.

Local Responses vs State Responses:

Here’s what I saw in Merced during the Mariposa fire was happening. The welcome sign outside our motel said evacuees with pets were allowed to stay. That warmed my heart! Before we turned back on Highway 140, we saw so many signs thanking the firefighters. On our last night in Merced, we were eating at the Black Bear Diner and an entire unit of the California Fire Department was eating there. No one cared that service was slower that night.

I look back on that and think how local responses to these wildfires are so much better than the state government. The state’s response to extreme wildfires can be summed up in seven letters: fuck all! Experts knew years ago that the drought was increasing wildfire risk, but the state had no preparations in place for annual once-in-a-lifetime wildfires that said experts were saying would happen!

In 2020, I saw the worst fire of all. People ask me if it’s true that the sky turned red. That answer is a resounding YES! I am so pissed off with the state government being stuck in the definition of insanity when it came to wildfire responses. I was hoping the red sky would be the California equivalent of The Great Stink of London, and the state would finally change things. Lately, I have heard of changes such as banning the sale of gas-powered cars by 2030 and California running for an hour on 100% renewable energy. I’m still skeptical. It doesn’t seem urgent enough. No, we can’t control the entire increase in global temperature that has led to drought and wildfires. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our part to decrease it though.

Be Respectful:

I would see evacuees in the motel lobby when I went down to get ice. They would be talking about when they might be able to go home, or what the damage was. One time, I saw a dog that would have rushed me if there wasn’t a glass door separating me and it. I know a lot of the dogs evacuated were probably farm dogs, and they have different manners than city dogs. Normally, I would pet any dog I see and talk to the owners, but this time I decided not to do so.

Additionally, I would say hi to people around the motel. I had a rule that if they didn’t say hi back to me, I wouldn’t take it personally. I didn’t know what they have been through but I hoped a kind “Hello” would make them feel a little better. Another rule I had was if I got in a conversation with an evacuee, I wouldn’t complain about the state’s response to the fire unless they wanted to as well. If they were a climate change denier, I would let it slide because it was time for kindness, not disagreement. I was raised to be Green before it was cool. I can get passionate about it. However, there are times when I won’t argue with people about it and this is one of them.

Use your own good judgement when talking to Californians about wildfires. Just don’t come off as arrogant or uninformed. It’s a sensitive topic, so be just as sensitive.

The Most Important Thing:

I take it you noticed that sometimes I don’t give you definite answers, so I tell you what I know. How you deal with natural disasters depends on your ability to be adaptable. You have to take whatever information you currently have and make decisions accordingly. Charles Darwin said that the most adaptable animals and people survive and he’s on point when it comes to disasters! We can be even more adaptable in this age of technology because we have a mini-computer in our pockets and can get real-time updates in emergencies.

I will say this about cell phones though. Figure out the most trusted apps and websites and use them in a wildfire situation. It can mean the difference between life and death. Usually, I would say local government sources of a wildfire zone are the most accurate. They have a vested interest in keeping their community safe. I have seen non-local websites that gave me the wrong AQI for my area! I didn’t panic though. It’s incredibly easy to find another site.

So that’s it for my California Wildfire Travel Guide. Feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments!

Visiting Yosemite in July

The first time I visited Yosemite National Park was in July 2017. It was only a three-day trip, but it’s worth writing about! When I told people I had been living in California for four years but had never gone to Yosemite, they gasped!

Here was the problem though. I thought accommodation would be a barrier. My parents and I thought that we had to get accommodation inside the park. My Mum worked at Yosemite a long time ago and she said that back then you had to book accommodation a month in advance. Nowadays, you have to book it a year in advance. When I explained the issue to a friend, he told me a pro-tip that I have held sacred, and this is the thing to do if you are travelling from out of state and don’t know this. Get accommodation nearby and drive into Yosemite for the day. I know lots of people in the Bay Area who love to impulsively go to Yosemite for the weekend, so I realized, “Oh! That’s how they do it!” My friend said the cheapest place for accommodation is Merced, and he’s right about that.

Armed with this information, I practically BEGGED my parents to take me to Yosemite! Mum said that summer is not the best time to go to Yosemite. I didn’t care though. Begging was the thing to do. I wore her down in the end.

The Plan:

We planned a 3 day trip to Yosemite in July. I had to “fit it into my busy schedule”. Read: I had been working myself half to death as a badge of self-martyrdom and also doing counselling to deal with deeply rooted mental health problems while still pretending life was fine. I did need to decompress for a bit, and I was just starting to learn how to take care of myself and prioritize my well-being. It’s hard to believe I was terrible at that a long time ago.

Even though the trip wasn’t really long enough, it was okay because we did go on a trip to see the solar eclipse reach totality a month later. That was another trip where I learned a lot about how to prioritize my well-being! I did a post about my eclipse trip, so if you want to read that, click here.

This was our first time getting a motel in Merced and driving into Yosemite for the day. We were eager to see how that went. Merced has a good range of motels for whatever you need and good food for whenever you have spent a day at Yosemite!

Of course, some things hardly ever go to plan.

Friday, July 21:

Off to Yosemite! It’s approximately a 5-hour drive from the Bay Area to Merced. If you leave on a Friday, you need to take into account that a lot of other people in the Bay Area (Hereafter known as Bay Aryans. Thanks Dad for that joke! Get it?) are also trying to get away from the city for the weekend. Additionally, getting away from the Bay Area for the weekend is not JUST getting away from the Bay Area for the weekend! You have to drive several hours before getting to an area that even remotely resembles the country. The worst part is before you get on 580 and then it gradually clears up.

One feature to look out for on 580 is the Altamont Pass. There is a wind farm there. As much as I support greener energy alternatives, the problem is that golden eagles nest in the Altamont Pass. For 40 years, golden eagles have been injured or killed by wind turbines. Animal rights activists have been advocating for safer practices since its inception. Recently, the Audobon Society sued the project. My parents once went to a wildlife centre open night. They had a golden eagle who had been too severely injured by the turbines to survive in the wild. I’m hoping there’s an update on wind turbines that doesn’t harm birds that use the same air currents that the turbines too.

En route to Yosemite
Altamont Pass Wind Farm

Wildfire Update:

Right before we left, we heard there was a wildfire near Yosemite by the town of Mariposa. You can read more about it here. We thought it had cleared up when we left. That turned out not to be the case. When we got to Merced, my Mum talked to some firefighters. They said Yosemite was open, but Highway 140, which is the best route from Merced to Yosemite was closed off because it goes through Mariposa. At the time, I didn’t have a smartphone, so I couldn’t keep up with traffic conditions. I don’t recommend travelling to Yosemite, or anywhere in California without a smartphone, especially during wildfire season. Anyway, we decided to drive to Tuolumne Meadows the next day, since that would avoid most of Highway 140.

Random Trip to Chowchilla:

We got to Merced early enough to go exploring. Mum got nostalgic for Chowchilla. She spent her summers at her great-aunt and uncle’s farm there and she wanted to show it to me. It was great to see a lot of the things were still standing. Mum’s great-uncle is long dead, but he refused to sell the place to someone who was in the lap of Big Ag. For those of you who aren’t Californians, even though agriculture is our biggest industry, it can be a Devil’s Bargain. They have been detrimental to smaller family farms. Obviously, Mum’s great-uncle saw the way the wind was blowing and refused to go along with it. Respect! If you see smaller farms in California during your travels, it’s because you have gone off the beaten path.

Anyway, here are some other Chowchilla highlights!

We paused to be entertained by some cows. They mooed at us, but when we started mooing at them, they didn’t moo back. 🐮😂

Mooooooo!!! 🐮🐮🐮

We drove by a lot of cornfields and wondered how tall they were. Eventually, our curiosity got the better of us. My Dad is over 6 feet tall and I’m about 6 inches shorter than him, so we decided to measure ourselves in relation to the cornfield.

Conclusion: The corn is at least 8 ft tall. We passed some areas that were probably 10 ft.

First Evening in Merced:

Since Merced is a farming town, we decided to go for some nice steak. After driving around, we found Bar BQ Pit. We ended up going there for dinner a lot the second time we did a trip to Yosemite! I love the way they cut their fries, and they pride themselves on their unique steak flavour! They aren’t lying about that! After dinner, we decided to get an early night. We didn’t know how long we would have to be driving thanks to most of Highway 140 being closed. Normally, if you go straight along Highway 140, from Merced, you’re at Yosemite pretty quickly. We were prepared for the fact that it would be tough to find parking in Yosemite if we got there too late.

Friday, July 22:

We woke up at 6:30 and left for Tuolumne Meadows. Since I didn’t have a smartphone, I couldn’t check any road updates on Highway 140. We didn’t immediately see any signs announcing any closures, so we proceeded down Highway 140 thinking we were okay. Right before we reached Mariposa, we started seeing the wildfire damage. A hush fell over the car as we saw what had happened. Dad said it was like seeing Turkey during the Gulf War. I didn’t take photos. That wouldn’t have been respectful. It was nice to see so many signs from Mariposa residents thanking the firefighters.

Side Note: I have some other wildfire stories during this trip, but I thought it best to put them in my next post. That post will also include tips on travelling in California during wildfire season.

Eventually, we came up to a roadblock and the officer said we would have to go back the way we came and told us how to get to enter Yosemite another way. We decided that we would go as far as we could before we had to go back to Merced. If we made it to Tuolumne Meadows, fine. If not, that was fine too.

How the Day Played Out:

We got into the park, but we didn’t make it to the valley, which is where all the popular parts are. Yosemite Valley is only 1 mile by 4 four miles, but there is so much more around it! We knew that it would take about five hours to drive back to Merced, not counting the detour we took earlier, so we decided to make the best of what we could do.

There was one place we stopped at where we could get photos of Half Dome. For the life of me, I couldn’t get a good photo! It was too smoky and there were too many tourists trying to do the same thing and being a little too loud about it. That’s when Mum taught me this term that employees at Yosemite use to describe tourists who disturb the peace. That term is “Turkeys”. Mum was despondent over the Turkey Problem being worse than when she worked there. There are a lot more tourists and the vast majority of them have smartphones now. She said to me, “That’s why I don’t recommend going to Yosemite in the summer!”

I did manage to get some photos of the landscape though. I’m deliberately not editing these images so you can see how smoky the air is.

We stopped at Lake Tanaya and waded around in it for a bit. The water was the perfect temperature and had that mountain snowmelt freshness! What is it about mountain areas and producing the perfect water in their lakes and rivers?

Visiting Yosemite in July
Lake Tanaya

Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Pass:

Tuolumne Meadows reminded me of the Alps, but less rocky! I’m glad there wasn’t a Turkey Problem there, especially since alpine meadows are fragile. Plus, we needed some quiet time after all that driving. This is a case where you really MUST stick to the paths! I feel like the paths give you some great views and a good amount of exercise, which satisfies whatever healthy needs and desires you may have.

As you can see, I went crazy with the camera. You must know by now that I LOVE mountains!

  • Visiting Yosemite in July
  • Visiting Yosemite in July

We got as far as Tioga Pass, but we couldn’t go over it because we had to head back to Merced. There wouldn’t have been any problems with that in July. It opens in June after the winter thaw. Next time!

Sunday, July 23:

We left the motel by 6 am because we found a way to get to the Yosemite Valley from the south. We stopped after this place called Tunnel View and took some photos of El Capitan and Half-Dome. Tunnel View had too many Turkeys, so we went to a viewpoint past it.

For those of you who have a burning desire to climb Half-Dome, I would say research safety and the rock fall that occurred in 2015 to be sure it’s okay. Even though the rockfall was a natural occurrence, there is speculation that rock falls will happen more often because of the drought and wildfires.

Bridal Veil Falls:

You can hear the majestic roar of the water of Bridal Veil Falls which prepares you for an equally majestic sight. I could see why it got its name. The water is as misty as lace and the wind blows it into ethereal patterns. Think of the most beautiful bridal veils you have ever seen (for me, it’s Princess Diana’s veil and Princess Grace of Monaco (aka Grace Kelly)). I’ll bet you that you will find the falls more beautiful than that! I kept taking photos in hopes of getting the sunshine at the top of the falls.

The information board about Bridal Veil Falls said that it is the 5th highest waterfall in the world. The board mentioned Angel Falls in Venezuela, which is featured in the movie Point Break. Bridal Veil Falls is the tallest waterfall I have seen so far, but after seeing it, the scene in Point Break that features Angel Falls made more sense. The Vista Point for Bridal Veil Falls was being restored at the time, so there weren’t too many Turkeys getting too close.

A Parking FYI:

If you are driving into Yosemite for the day, you have to keep your eyes peeled for a parking place and think ahead about where you can park next! There were times we couldn’t find a parking place, and that was usually around lunchtime. Another reason why we woke up early was to get good parking at Yosemite. There is a shuttle in Yosemite Valley, so you don’t have to drive everywhere. You still have to park your car somewhere and have a strategy.

Curry Villiage and the Ahwahnee Hotel:

Curry Villiage is Mum’s old stomping grounds! She also wanted to show me the Ahwahnee Hotel. It’s the crown jewel of Yosemite accommodation. She was showing us around and regaling us with her stories of working at Yosemite. We were quite annoyed by the fact they changed Curry Villiage to Yosemite Villiage and the Ahwahnee to “The Majestic Yosemite Hotel”! Some dumb company that doesn’t know anything about anything changed the classic names of things in Yosemite Valley because they think it will attract more customers. We know we are in Yosemite! We don’t need tasteless advertising thrown in our faces! That made me want to hurl!

I did notice that when you book accommodation that the classic names are still there, but when you’re in the Valley, your eyes are being assaulted by overkill Yosemite advertising. I prefer to refer to them by their classic names and hopefully, someday they will get changed back!

Glacier Point, Half-Dome, Yosemite Falls:

This is where we used the shuttle. We first went where we could get good photos of Glacier Point and Half-Dome.

We then took the shuttle to Yosemite Falls Trail. Dad and I walked along the Yosemite Falls Trail to get closer. Mum hurt her knee tripping over Dad’s foot on the way to the trail, so she let us go while she waited for us and took care of her knee. Mum had told us about a bridge you can stand on in front of Yosemite Falls and encouraged us to go that far.

I loved the trail and the falls! These were the two best photos I could get up close. I have to figure out how to not get spray on my camera!

A lot of Turkeys were getting too close to the falls for that perfect selfie, which is incredibly dangerous. You can never tell exactly how slippery the rocks are. I was happy with the photos I got and I didn’t risk my life for it. I can’t tell you how many times I got photobombed! When I edited the photos later, I had the Turkey Version and the non-Turkey Version. I’m putting the Turkey Version here so you can see how bad the Turkey Problem is.

To the Turkeys:

Those of us who respect our national parks know who you all are. Rest assured, we and park employees make fun of you behind your backs. I wish you well as you work through why you feel entitled to nature. Hopefully, you won’t have any accidents thanks to your entitlement. On the other hand, you had better not run into my mother because she’s scary if she sees you doing something very wrong! She’s scarier than any accident you could possibly have!

Time to go home😢:

I kept hoping I would get asked, “When do you want to leave?” so that I could say “Never!” By 3 pm, we hit the road to go back to the Bay Area. Right before we left, we found out Highway 140 reopened. Darn it!

I wanted to mention that in the Bay Area we say we are going “up to Yosemite” since it’s in the Sierras. So don’t get weirded out if you hear someone say that.

Mum said to me, “Promise me we will come back here in six months when you’re off from school!” I said something extreme would have to happen to keep me away. It did. I got appendicitis right before Christmas. We went back to Yosemite the following Christmas, so I will be writing about that soon.

Have you ever been to Yosemite? Let me know your stories in the comments!

Next post: California Wildfire Travel Tips

Park #12: Olympic Plaza Park

Date visited: February 28, 2022, but have walked through it a few times before that.

Location: Downtown Calgary

Best Time of Year To Visit: Any time, especially when there’s an event! It depends on your preferences. More on that later.

History:

Olympic Plaza Park was built in 1988 when Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics. The medal ceremonies took place there. Fun fact: That was the year that the first Jamaican bobsled team competed, as shown in the movie Cool Runnings. You can see the Calgary Tower just past the park. Even though Calgary Tower wasn’t built for the Olympics, whenever the Olympics happen, there is a flame burning on the top of it when the Olympic Flame is lit.

There’s another piece of history that goes back even further than 1988. There are statues of the Famous Five, formerly known as the Alberta Five. The other place you can find statues of the Famous Five is in Ottawa on Parliament Hill. The Famous Five were petitioners in the Persons Case in 1929. This case overturned a ruling the previous year that said that women were not people. A decade before, provinces started allowing women to vote in federal and provincial elections and run for the House of Commons. However, women were still not allowed to be appointed to the Senate. The Persons Case allowed women to be appointed to the Senate.

  • Olympic Plaza Park
  • Famous Five Bios Olympic Plaza Park

Features:

Olympic Plaza Park is a prime place for downtown events! The most famous of them is the Chinook Blast concert. In the centre of the park, there’s the Reflecting Pond, which you can enjoy in early summer. Later in the summer, they drain it for maintenance. In the winter, you can skate on it! The park sparkles with Christmas magic in December and bursts into bloom in the spring!

Skating Rink at Olympic Plaza Park

I found it amusing to see the pipes that have the names of the parks in Calgary. Looks like one big checklist for my Parks Challenge! 😂😎

Calgary Parks Challenge Checklist! Lol!

Challenges:

There are times it can get crowded, besides the times there are events. Since Olympic Plaza Park is across the street from City Hall, you’re more likely to run into protests. A good way to gauge if it’s a good time to visit the park is to peek at it from the light rail station or train. I followed my own advice earlier this year when I was going downtown and thought it would be a good idea to chill at Olympic Plaza Park. Then, I saw a protest supporting the Trucker’s Convoy, so that plan went out the window! It’s a popular choice for city workers on their lunch break as well. I’m not sure if the park’s lunch break visitors have reduced due to the pandemic and more workers doing hybrid work, but I guess only time will tell.

If you miss any of my future posts on my challenge or want to reread my past posts, you can go to my page Calgary Parks Challenge. You can also find more photos from the parks on my Instagram page here.

See you at the next park in my challenge!

How To Take Care of Your Winter Feet

After living in Canada for a year and a half, I have had to re-learn how to do foot care. I gave up on foot care after I left ballet. It wasn’t important to take care of my feet regularly in sunny California or rainy, humid London because the climate didn’t require it. After my first winter in Calgary, I thought, “Yay!! No more foot care for at least 3 months!!” I was dead wrong. I still had to take care of my feet in the summer. It should have been a clue when I heard the following quote.

“Canada is not for the cold of heart or the cold of feet.” – Pierre Trudeau

Before I Share My Foot Care Advice, A Few Things:

Disclaimer: I HATE feet!!

I used to be a ballet dancer, so of course, I hate feet.

Don’t worry. I won’t be sharing any pictures of my dancer’s feet!

I have Small Foot Syndrome because everyone I knew was surprised I had small feet, even for a dancer. Still, I am happy I knew about foot care before I moved to Canada, even though I have a strong case of foot care fatigue. Winter foot care applies to the summer too. Don’t think you can’t get problems by walking a lot in sandals. I only call it winter foot care because winter is the dominant season here.

Prevention is Better than Cure:

That is extremely true for feet! When you get new winter boots or even any type of shoe, you learn where the rub points are. The best thing you can do is put Band-Aids or Moleskin on the areas before going outside! When I was in ballet, I would tape my toes prior to putting my pointe shoes on. That drastically reduced the number of blisters I got! The same thing is true for putting Band-Aids on areas where your shoes rub before you go outside. If your feet are blister-free, try to keep it that way! I used microporous tape and made sure it was good quality. Bad quality tape does NOT prevent blisters! At all. Band-Aids work well for wrapping my toes in shoes though.

Additionally, be mindful of how you put your shoes or boots on and take them off. I’m serious. That can determine whether you get blisters. Last winter, I kept my boots laced and slid my feet into them. It didn’t matter that I had Band-Aids on my heel. It still dug into my heel. Sliding my feet into my boots moved my socks into the wrong position too, even though I didn’t know it. Once I loosened the laces before putting my boots on and made sure my socks were in the right position, no more blisters on my heel!

When I lived in Colorado, I learned how to ice-skate and enjoyed that sport for three years! I found the lessons I learned in not letting my socks wrinkle and not sliding my feet in my boots are similar to putting on ice skates.

A Note About Boots and Sub-Zero Temperatures:

Too many layers of socks can give you blisters too. Blister prevention is critical in sub-zero temperatures because frostbite is a danger once the temperature drops to -20 C or below. Have you ever seen Scott of the Antarctic starring Sir John Mills? Well, it shows how damaged skin leads to frostbite. Know how many layers you need inside your boots and make sure they don’t wrinkle as well! Last winter, I walked a total of 20 blocks when it was -30 C with a windchill of almost -40 C. It was my first time doing something like that. Before I left, I inspected my hands and feet for damaged skin. When I left, I automatically knew that if I hadn’t checked for damaged skin, I would have turned back. When it’s too cold to be outside with damaged skin, no amount of layering makes it feel better. IYKYK.

Blister Cures:

If after all the prevention, blisters still happen, here’s what I do. Have you ever had a painful bubble of skin and wondered whether to pop it or leave it? Here’s my answer: Pop it. Plus, if you follow my steps below, it will feel a lot better, and faster.

  1. Soak your feet in warm/hot water with unscented Epsom salts. Scented ones irritate your skin. Move your feet around because it helps the blister stop hurting sooner.
  2. When your feet get wrinkly, or when the blister stops hurting, take a sterilized implement (I use nail scissors or a nail clipper) and burst it. Or get someone to burst it for you. Note: if waiting for your feet to get wrinkly isn’t an option for you due to nerve damage, wait until the blister stops hurting to pop it.
  3. Keep your feet in the warm water until the pain goes away.
  4. Wrap it snugly in a Band-Aid (it needs pressure). You can put something to moisturize the skin too if you want.
  5. Put on some socks that you love and put your feet up later (I will explain in a minute what my recommendations for that are).

You’ll be amazed at how much faster your blisters heal!

Cracked Skin:

When I was a ballet dancer, putting lotion on my feet was VERBOTEN after starting to dance en pointe! I basically went 8 years without moisturizing my feet while I was in ballet, and then it was another 10 years of never needing to do it. When I moved to Calgary, it felt brand new to me to start moisturizing my feet.

I found some foot masks at Dollarama which are great for moisturizing or exfoliating. I use them once a month during winter. Additionally, I use a cream that is dermatologically approved. In terms of cream, I like to use a balance between ones that are dermatologically approved and ones that are environmentally friendly. My favourite brands are both Burt’s Bees (for environmentally friendly) and Cerave (for dermatologically approved). It’s a shame that so far, I haven’t found anything that has both qualities. I’ll bide my time though. Here’s what I do: I keep an organic, environmentally friendly cream with honey in my bag. I apply it before I go outside in subzero temperatures and reapply while outside as needed. I also use organic, environmentally friendly face cream. When I need something to moisturize deeper into my skin, I use dermatologically approved cream.

When I was living in London, there was this solution that I bought called Surgical Spirit. I know, kind of a creepy name right? It was an alcohol solution that contained castor oil to prevent your skin from cracking. It toughens your skin without drying it out. I used it every night after my bath when I was in ballet. If liquids were still allowed on planes, I would go to the UK and fill up a suitcase with Surgical Spirit! But, since I can’t do that, Mum figured out how to make it! With her chemistry background and my ballet background, we make a good team!

Recipe for Surgical Spirit Substitute:

  • 1 cup Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol
  • 1/4 cup Listerine
    • Note: It must be Listerine! It has the required amount of methylated spirits.
  • 1 tbsp Castor Oil

Mix together well.

The reason this works so well is the alcohol breaks up the dense fat molecules in the castor oil. Give this a try and let me know if you see a difference in how tough your skin is!

Calluses, Corns and Plantar Warts:

I keep a steady supply of callus removers and corn removers. Plus, if anyone gets a plantar wart, god forbid, we have home treatment supplies for that. I’m currently treating this plantar wart that I have had for years without knowing it, and doing it aggressively! Summer is the time to treat plantar warts because I’m not shoving my feet into winter boots! One thing I have not tried yet, but will likely try next year is getting a medical pedicure after putting my winter boots away. That way, my feet will be all refreshed for summer. I’ll let you know how that goes!

My Mum knows that if she sends me to the pharmacy to get one thing for our feet, I will come back with things to replenish our supply of what we currently have! She’s fine with it because that’s the ballet dancer in me! We joke that we should buy stock in Life Brand, Dr. Scholls and Compound W!

Footbaths:

Remember the post I did about the best material possessions I got since moving here? There’s a reason why some of those items have to do with feet! A proper footbath is an investment here, not a luxury! During the winter, I use it once a week to get rid of dead skin. A buildup of dead skin is a bad thing when you have months of winter ahead of you!

I deliberately got a footbath that runs for an hour. Twenty minutes in a footbath is not enough to get rid of dead skin! Originally, I bought a footbath with a 20-minute limit, but the motor started to smell after 10 minutes, even when I used it the first time. A strong motor is imperative! I also use a pumice stone and scraper on my feet when my footbath is done but the water is cooling down. I change the pumice stone and scraper every 6-12 months.

Nice Socks and Leg Pillows!:

After I have had a rough day on my feet (or not), there’s nothing I love more than wearing nice socks and raising my feet on a leg pillow! In the post I referenced in the previous section, I talked about the leg pillow and reading socks that I got. I personally love leg pillows that are adjustable. Mine can be used in four different ways! It benefits circulation to raise your feet to your heart level on a regular basis. But there are some other benefits. Sometimes, my skin gets this burning feeling when I wear shoes too long. Putting my feet up relieves it, but also wearing special socks.

I wear different socks depending on what I need. If my feet are too hot, I just go barefoot. Sometimes, I need something super soft against my feet because the skin feels tender, so I wear my reading socks. I can’t believe I didn’t discover toe socks until my mid-20s! They would have been a lifesaver in ballet! I have moments where the joints feel bad and putting on toe socks relieves the joints because it spreads my toes a bit to relieve the inflammation. As a former dancer, I absolutely LOVE good-quality socks! You would have thought I had a major sock fetish if you knew me when I was in ballet!

I have some other hacks for footcare and winter self-care, but that’s another post! Hope you liked what I had to say about the subject from a dancer’s perspective. What do you do for foot care? Let me know in the comments!

Park #11: Carburn Park

Date visited: October 7, 2021

Location: SE Calgary

Best Time of Year To Visit: It depends on what kind of activities you want to do (see the Features section). I don’t recommend going in the winter unless you are planning to take advantage of their outdoor ice rink. Snow can make this park tricky to navigate. Autumn is a beautiful time as you’re about to find out.

Bow River Pathway:

Mum and I decided to go to Carburn Park right after we saw Sue Higgins Park. We crossed the Bow River and saw on the sign for the Bow River Pathway that Carburn Park was not far away.

I looked up the Bow River Pathway after I got home. It’s a cycling and walking trail that connects a number of green spaces and recreation areas along the Bow River. I was impressed with how many parks are connected to this trail! IThe Calgary Zoo and Fort Calgary are connected to the Bow River Pathway too. It would be impressive if I could go along the trail and knock some parks off my list. I like to savour the parks, though. When I’m done with this challenge, I will do the trail possibly by bike. You can find a list of the recreation areas along the Bow River Pathway here.

Park History:

  • Carburn Park
  • Carburn Park
  • Carburn Park
  • Carburn Park

I admit I had never looked up the history of the Calgary Stampede at all before I came here. When I saw Senator Patrick Burns’ bio, I thought, “Oh that’s how it started!”. I researched the history more thoroughly later on.

The part about the gravel industry made me think of Schitt’s Creek, “Yeah, it’s gravel.”

Apparently, there used to be a railway line there that ran from Calgary to Montana. No wonder there were parts on the Bow River Pathway that looked like, what my Dad calls a Good Montana Road and a Bad Montana Road. My Dad usually refers to those roads while driving, but it’s fun to make fun of it on walking paths as well. Okay, I’m being funny, but see below for more about that.

Features:

Carburn Park has both a lagoon and a lake with a variety of trails around both. There are activities to be enjoyed in this park year-round! In the winter, there’s an outdoor ice rink. In the summer, you can go canoeing or fishing. If none of those activities are appealing, you can simply walk or sit on the benches and take in what’s around you. It’s a great place for a picnic in warmer weather!

  • Carburn Park
  • Carburn Park

Carburn Park is a prime location for bird-watching and finding unique native shrubs and plants. It’s another wildlife haven in the city! I’m glad that dogs are allowed, but it’s an on-leash area. It was a little disturbing though to see warning signs for a natural gas pipeline in this little slice of nature heaven. It’s one of those things I wish I could tune out, but it’s can’t be helped.

  • Carburn Park
  • Carburn Park
  • Carburn Park
  • Carburn Park
  • Carburn Park

I found a certain peace and magical feeling going there in the autumn. It was about 3 pm, and the sun got this pre-sunset golden colour. That is a prime time to visit Carburn Park! Note: it was right before the clocks went back as well. If you want to experience some autumnal brilliance at Carburn Park, follow these tips!

Challenges:

Even though the park was on flat ground, getting to and from the park is more challenging if you have mobility issues. Parts of the Bow River Pathway are unpaved. Those sections can be a Good Montana Road or a Bad Montana Road as I said above. It’s funny to say it, but in real life, it’s not good to be flippant about it.

A Good Montana Road
A Bad Montana Road

Additionally, some pathways away from the park were rather steep, and those are the ones that lead to a residential area, which may or may not be your way out of the park. We learned that the hard way!

I want to note something important. Public transport options in this area are limited. When I tried finding public transport options on Google Maps, it just told me gibberish. Another important lesson with going to these parks is to be sure of the public transport options before going, especially if we want to change plans and see another park in the same area that day.

Final Notes:

This is the point where I took a break from my Parks Challenge. If you followed me last October, you know why.

Now that I have explored eleven parks, I have encountered a few funny signs. I’m going to do a post compiling the funny signs I have seen in the parks.

If you miss any of my future posts on my challenge or want to reread my past posts, you can go to my page Calgary Parks Challenge. You can also find more photos from the parks on my Instagram page here.

See you at the next park in my challenge!

Eleven parks down! 62 to go!