Oak & Sterling

The great Canadian long weekend

When I was a self-employed photographer, long weekends were some imaginary concept that I never experienced… In fact so were regular weekends. I never understood things like #humpday #tgif #patioweather… Even when I did work a regular 9 to 5 day job, I used to judge people that would come back from their weekends (long or not) and would talk about how they went paintballing or skydiving or rented a cottage. I always said to myself: “I want a life where I don’t hate my job so much that I need to pay for action-adventures to make myself feel human.”

Growing up in the GTA meant that long weekends were usually spent on the 401 driving for hours to go look at some boring touristy spot like Niagara Falls, turn around and spend hours again on the highway because everyone else in Toronto and the GTA had the exact same idea. It sucked 20 years ago and it sucks even more now.

Then in my early twenties I was self-employed as a freelance photographer, but because I was so broke, I still juggled 2-3 part-time jobs to just make ends meet. Either I worked 7 days per week, or I didn’t work for a month. There was no such thing as a weekend, let along a long one.

In 2014 when I moved to Woodlands County, Alberta, I was also working 24/7 in the nearby town of Whitecourt, but once or twice per year I would get a weekend off. If I was lucky it would even be a long weekend.

The thing about rural Alberta is that some family or the other is going to invite you over to their place on a long weekend. These family dinners/gatherings/parties would involve some combination of a barbecue, lots of booze, kids and dogs running wild, a bonfire, and a deck of cards. This past Victoria Day in 2017 was no exception.

On Victoria Day 2017, Kathleen and Milan Skrecek setup a clay pigeon shoot for a group. While we shot clays, Milan got lunch going. Barbecued smokies are the best picnic food!

Here in rural Alberta you only need to drive 10 minutes in any direction and you’re out in the wilderness. People live on beautiful acreages, there are deer and moose strolling through your yard all year round, and you’re surrounded by trees. It’s not at all like being stuck on the 400-series highways.

Look at the beautiful view of the wilderness in Woodlands County. Being able to legally shoot guns on crown land is a wonderful experience, and Woodlands County has plenty of crown land.

As I met more families in Woodlands County and Whitecourt, I almost had too many invites for long weekends. I knew one thing was certain Though: I would have a good time. In fact my first Family Day long weekend in Alberta was spent shooting clay pigeons, and probably ended with a huge meal and some coffee with Bailey’s.

Elk steak by the fire on Victoria Day 2017.

Eventually that became the standard long weekend in Woodlands County and Whitecourt: Clay pigeon shooting or punching paper with .22s, eating game meat that I or a friend hunted, cigars or pipe tobacco, coffee, and some peated whisky around a bonfire.

I was lighting my pipe with a twig to be a hipster so Kathleen and Milan decided to one-up me. Milan doesn’t like losing so he went with a smouldering log to light his pipe.
I love the long summer days as you move farther north in Canada. This picture was taken around 10 p.m. in Whitecourt.

This past Victoria Day weekend was no different. A group of us drove about 15 minutes east of Whitecourt to find crown land in Woodlands County, shot some clay pigeons and barbecued smokies for lunch. In the evening I went to Kathleen and Milan Skrecek’s place for some amazing elk steaks from the elk Milan shot last hunting season. We finished the night off with some bourbon whisky flavoured pipe tobacco and Turkish coffee and a bonfire in their backyard in Whitecourt.

Milan cut a Swedish torch out of a tree stump. I thought it would be perfect for Turkish coffee and it was actually amazing.

That’s my definition of a great Canadian long weekend.

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