Crude Observations

A Grand Break

Hi everyone, I’m back! Did anyone miss me? Did anyone even know I was gone? Seriously, did anyone even notice? This is important to me because, well, I like to feel important. And I like to think that I play some small role in my readers’ lives whether it is through the injection of some levity into their lives or some pithy and relevant insight into the events that shape our lives or just an entertaining five to ten minute read in your favourite place to do such things.


So, where was I last week and why did I need to take a week off of the blog. Well, you would think that with a full 14 days between blogs that I may in fact have been in quarantine or something for some horrific disease like a cold, or a flu or a corona virus. But you would be wrong! That is absolutely not the case nor where I was.


In actual fact I was doing what many people consider a bucket list thing, which wasn’t actually a bucket list thing for me, just something I wanted to do. And no, it wasn’t clown school or Hobbit boot camp.


No, I was privileged enough (and able to con my family) to have the opportunity to go on a six-day backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon. And let me tell you, it was Grand. So of course me being me, the first part of this blog, and, let’s be truthful, probably all of it, is going to centre around this most excellent of trips.


First off, I feel the need to address the most obvious question – who in their right mind wants to go on a six day backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon? The obvious answer is that I am probably not in my right mind and the second answer is someone equally off their rocker as I. Which of course meant I needed to find a travel mate. Fortunately I had a ready made backpacking partner who, for the sake of privacy I will call Terry. At any rate Terry was game for the trip and we kind of knew how it would go given that a mere 31 or so years ago this same dynamic duo pursued a similarly daft hiking dream on the spine of Appalachia, otherwise known as the Appalachian Trail.


So, why the Grand Canyon? Why now? As many of you know, I am not a spring chicken. In fact, I don’t believe I was ever a chicken, and I am definitely trending to late summer. There are years on the knees. I have also always been intrigued by the Grand Canyon, whether it was flying over it on trips to Phoenix, or reading about it or looking at pictures. Intrigued, yet never so much as to drag myself to visit it, which is ironic, given the excursion I planned.


At any rate, advancing years I think have an affect on the male psyche, fragile as it is (insert eye roll here). So much so that we feel the need to do silly things, like hike the Grand Canyon or ride a motorcycle through Bolivia or learn to juggle. All to prove to ourselves that we still have “it”, whatever “it” is. Plus, it seemed like a fun thing to do and if my aching knees from day to day are any true indication of what’s in the future, now seemed as good a time as any.


The first step of course in any journey, at least for a guy, is to gear up. In this instance, I was most ably assisted by a checklist, Christmas and the most thorough shopper on the planet – my wife. So Christmas morning I received a virtual treasure trove of meticulously researched and sourced gear which I complemented with some random impulse purchased items of my own. It goes without saying, most of my gear was indispensable and of impeccable quality, the rest was the crap I bought.


Thankfully, with the gear taken care of, all that was left was to get to the canyon and do the deed. So Terry came to me on a Saturday, we got up at the crack of dawn the next day and flew to Phoenix, then drove to Flagstaff, found ourselves in a hotel ballroom with snacks and packs and our share of six days worth of the food that was to be shared amongst the two of us, three fellow backpackers and our guide for the trip. Bam.


Wake up call was set to for 4:30 am the next day, meet time at 6:30 am followed by a van ride to Grand Canyon Village and, presumably, a relaxed and cheery walk to our first campground.


As I alluded to earlier, up until last Monday, I had never actually seen the Grand Canyon in person. And as we got closer and closer, I still hadn’t seen it. I didn’t see it when we parked in the back-country office parking lot or when I weighed my pack (49 lbs). I didn’t see it when I got on the village shuttle bus (blue line) or when we transferred to the orange line. I didn’t actually see the Grand Canyon for the first time until we got off the orange shuttle at the top of the South Kaibab Trail and I took a look around.


The first words that I think typically come to mind when you see the Canyon for the first time are some variant of “Oh. My. God.” or “Holy Crap”. The Grand Canyon is massive. And deep. So very deep.


As I stood at the edge, looking down into the canyon, contemplating my existence, my first thought after absorbing the remarkably beautiful and spectacular vista was something along the lines of “good lord, what have I gotten myself into?”

Fortunately, our guide didn’t leave enough time for second thoughts to become sheer abject panic and before I knew it, I was 50 feet below the rim, the cell signal wasn’t coming back until I got out and the adventure was on.


Off we went, sight unseen, off-grid, to see what trouble we could get into in a canyon.


I won’t belabour the details but what followed was six glorious days of backpacking in what is truly one of the most special places in the world, a natural wonder of incomprehensible size and beauty. About 50 miles of walking and somewhere around 15,000 feet of elevation change. It may seem like not much, but trust me, it’s a lot.


The weather was perfect, bluebird skies every day, spring like temperatures, cold at night but not unbearably so. Crystal clear skies, Milky Way, actually visible and recognizable constellations. Adventure, aches and pains, good food, camaraderie and shared experience. A side bonus for me? Some necessary weight loss.


And then just like that we were out. Changed? Somewhat. But a quick check of the news revealed that we were in fact the only ones who had changed, because the world? Well, while it had continued on without us, not much had actually changed.


  • Donald Trump was still President.
  • Pipeline protestors were still blocking Canadian rail lines across the country.
  • Coronavirus was still slowly making its way across the globe.
  • Markets were still in turmoil.
  • The democratic race was still a giant mess.
  • The Alberta economy was still under siege.
  • The Teck Frontier project was at the time still in limbo.
  • Jason Kenney and Justin Trudeau were still not hanging out and going for beers together.
  • Oil companies were still waiting for pipelines to be built.


It was actually all I could do to not step back into the canyon where at least the daily routine of wake up, eat, break camp, walk, snack, walk, eat, walk, snack, walk, set up camp, eat, sleep was predictable and soothing enough to sustain me for at least a bit longer.


But as the saying goes, there is no escaping the real world. My family was (im)patiently waiting for me to return with some crappy souvenirs. My wife (most importantly) was deservedly needing me to come home and relieve her from being a single parent to two very demanding kids (and I am eternally thankful for her support as I did this admittedly self-centred expedition). My work and clients needed me to come home and get back to doing whatever it is they pay me to do. And lastly, dear friends, I needed to come back and get on with this blog – to be a point of calm in an apparently seething sea of chaos.


There will be plenty of time in the coming weeks and months to chat about the coronavirus, the market meltdown (come on people, we have no idea what the effect is ultimately going to be), the volatile price of oil both in the short and long term, the so-called “energy transition”, pipeline protests and the prospects for the world post US-election. But that is for another week. For now I am thankful to have had the opportunity to have this experience and that, as was required of me, I didn’t die in the Grand Canyon.


I will close this little missive with my notes from the last day of my journey:


Rise at 4:30. Ouch. That’s ok. Didn’t sleep much because the deer were snacking next to my tent and a mouse was checking out my shoes. Cold in the AM. Early rise is dictated by the nasty forecast for the day climbing up to the south rim. 100% chance of rain by mid morning and 3000 feet to climb. Almost got lost in the dark looking for the toilets – that’s embarrassing. Hit the trail by 6 am (ugh) and proceeded by headlamp for a number of miles. Sunrise revealed a swirly, angrier Canyon than we have been used to, with clouds building rapidly on the north rim and spits of rain when we hit the halfway point. By the time we are two thirds there we are fully engaged and forced to use our pack covers and I finally, triumphantly, pull out the last piece of gear I have not yet used, a rain jacket. Along with the relentless ascent, our steady rainfall is soon accompanied by ice on the trail and the need for crampons given the cliff-side drop of doom off the trail. But we also get pictographs, millennial-old graffiti which served as a very timely reminder of the existence of another civilization in these environs who have been casually moved aside to make way for my random trip. Freezing, but pushing ourselves through the last few switchbacks, we see first a hotel perched on the side of the canyon and then salvation in the form of a trailhead. We emerge as a group, triumphant, into what appears to be a plaza in a parking lot, in the rain. Cars drive by, take no notice of us gathered around the trailhead sign, giddily taking pictures. No one cares. I do. But it’s a deeply personal experience, shared yes, but all mine. I did it. And as I am forced to acknowledge, life goes on outside my inner triumph.


Roused from its slumber my phone buzzes and reminds me the world outside wants in. I take the time to let the people that matter know I am OK and then, slowly and with great trepidation, check… emails… and… the… news…


Ugh. Why. Why oh why did I do that.


Dismayed, I look around. A car drives by, almost hits me, no eye contact. I look back to the trailhead sign towards the Grand Canyon – gone in the mist. Fading already into memory.


Time to go home.


Prices as at February 28, 2020

  • Oil prices down during the week after the big coronavirus sell-off;
    • Oil storage mostly flat
    • Production flat
  • Natural Gas
  • Storage high; consumption down; production flat; exports increased


  • WTI Crude: $45.17 ($52.17)
  • Western Canada Select: $31.23 ($34.57)
  • AECO Spot: $2.00 ($2.00)
  • NYMEX Gas: $1.704 ($1.852)
  • US/Canadian Dollar: $0.7449 ($0.7542)



  • As at February 21, 2020, US crude oil supplies were at 443.3 million barrels, an increase of 0.4 million barrels from the previous week and a decrease of 2.6 million barrels from last year.
    • The number of days oil supply in storage is 27.6 which is comparable to last year at this time.
    • Production was flat for the week at 13.000 million barrels per day. Production last year at the same time was 12.100 million barrels per day.
    • Imports decreased to 6.217 million barrels from 6. 547 million barrels per day compared to 5.917 million barrels per day last year.
    • Crude exports from the US decreased to 3.564 million barrels per day from 3.564 million barrels per day last week compared to 3.359 million barrels per day a year ago
    • Canadian exports to the US decreased to 3.603 million barrels a day from 3.690 million barrels per day last week
    • Refinery inputs decreased during the week to 16.008 million barrels per day
  • As at February 21, 2020, US natural gas in storage was 2,200 billion cubic feet (Bcf), which is 9% above the the 5-year average and about 41% higher than last year’s level, following an implied net withdrawal of 143 Bcf during the report week
    • Overall U.S. natural gas consumption fell by 7 during the report week.
    • Production was essentially flat for the week. Imports from Canada increased 3% from the week before. Exports to Mexico were flat week over week.
    • LNG exports totaled 69 Bcf
  • As of February 28, 2020, the onshore Canadian rig count decreased 4 to 237 (AB – 159; BC – 16; SK – 59; MB – 3; Other – 2). Rig count for the same period last year was 238.
  • US Onshore Oil rig count at February 14, 2020 is at 678, down 1 from the week prior.
    • Peak rig count was October 10, 2014 at 1,609
  • Natural gas rigs drilling in the United States is flat at 110.
    • Peak rig count before the downturn was November 11, 2014 at 356 (note the actual peak gas rig count was 1,606 on August 29, 2008)
  • Offshore rig count was flat at 22.
    • Offshore peak rig count at January 1, 2015 was 55

US split of Oil vs Gas rigs is 86%/14%, in Canada the split is 68%/32%


Trump Watch: Not sure what to do with this virus thing

Kenney Watch (new!): Super upbeat budget. Dude needs a newspaper

Trudeau Watch (for balance): Trains.

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