20 July, 2009

Oh Canada, 2009

5 July,
Ever have one of those sleepless nights due to being too exhausted? Well, that's what the Firecracker 50 did to my brain; in addition to being a late minute preparer for anything, the following items were forgotten as I packed at 0430: cell phone, sunglasses, long pants, leg/arm warmers, beanie, and the GPS. After 10 hours of driving we arrived in Bozeman at 1800. Celebrated our trek northward by having some beers at Montana Ale Works. Bozeman's "Homegrown Radio Station"-91.1 FM-was a sonic treat for us while relaxing at the non-vacancied Bozeman Inn. The drive was uneventful but timely with nary a po-po at all. Bozeman's a cute town. Went to the Museum of the Rockies. Saw some cool stuff and there was an exceptionally cool photographic exhibit of the original sheep farmers on Bozeman. While there we also saw one of the lamest planetarium shows for kids ever about "The Missing Seasons". Incidentally, the largest T-Rex skull ever found was in Montana. Montana is Spanish for "Montana". I'd compare Bozeman to a scaled-down version of Fort Collins. Stopped at Missoula and had a picnic near the University of Montana campus. Home of the fighting Griz(zlies). Ate near the Clark River and listened to some NPR.

The kids rode in the world's fastest carousel; now I see why the attendant strapped everybody in. At first it was funny but then it looked like a scene from when NASA astronauts prepare for take-off g-forces on the horizontally opposed baton of spinny-tude. Nutty. The carousel creatures were all handmade and took about a million hand hours to make. The dragon's mouth contained rings where the carouselers would reach out their hands to grab to later redeem for a prize. Later that evening checked in to Apgar Village and into our cabin.
6 July,
Woke up early at Glacier NP near the Canadian border and Mason and I walked around Apgar Village-this is Lake McDonald...

Beautiful. Hiked (we all did) Avalanche Lake/Creek. Here's the beginning of all the waterfall and lake hikes we'd encounter on our trip. Here's a beautiful notch in the rocks cut by Avalanche Creek.
At Avalanche Lake/Creek, our lunch consisted of some fine PB&J bagels made from Melissa. We packed a boat load of food for this trip. Only had to eat out twice. How's that for saving money?

It's been raining so all the forests are greenly carpeted. Later we rented a (not so) power(ful) boat at the stately McDonald Lake Inn.
When we were out of the proprietor's line of sight, my daughters took turns steering/throttling the boat. They did good!
7 July,
There's only one route to get to Canada from here and that's going through Logan Pass' Going to the Sun road. The Lonely Planet travel book (which was excellent!)said depending on the volume of traffic it might could take up to three hours to reach Logan Pass. Luckily since there's a size ban on this road (read: no obnoxious, super-sized RVs), we made the trip to the top in about an hour. The road's crazy narrow with hardly any shoulder space. If one were to fall off, they'd be falling for a while due to glaciated, steep slopes made in the last 50 million or so years.

There were some cyclists on this road but I wouldn't recommend it on neither the Canadian nor the American side. At Logan Pass Visitor Center we took a hike Melissa read called the "Hidden Lakes Overlook". It was over a sizable snowfield stretch.

Mason couldn't negotiate walking too well on the white stuff so again I portaged him on my shoulders. Tenzing Daddy sherpa skills put to use! Everything here's about 6K' feet and up, so physiologically we had no oxygen debt problems since we live about 8K' daily. Snapped some gorgeous pictures at the overlook and had to do a quick return trip since these beautiful thunderclouds were about to open up on us.

Seeing all this scenery reinforces our decision in 1996 to live somewhere in the Rocky Mountain Range. Colorado'll do just fine, thanks. There was one keypoint landmark on the trail where a rocky outcropping came through the snowfield pathway. People were on their hands/knees so they wouldn't fall the 20 or so feet back onto the snow (damn sea levelers). I cruised through there with Mason on my shoulders taking advantage of about a million years of mammalian terrestrial adaptations allowing us fairly proficient bipedalism (with a small hominid on one's shoulders). Once I got back onto the snow, the thunderclouds let us have it with a ferocious sleet/hail, one-two combo with the winds blowing the precipitants sideways. It stung, so I put Mason on my leeward side to prevent him getting pelted by hostile projectiles. I was running like one of those cartoon episodes where someone is getting chased by a hive of bees back to the visitor center (here it's the visitor centre). Even with this uncomfortable weather the quality of time we're spending together as a family is off-the-charts.
8/9 July, Hello Canada,

We're in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park to be specific.

Melissa picks a hike called Bertha Lakes and we notice how the mosquitoes are beginning to be a major pain. The trick is to not be too stationary for too long. In the evening we take a drive to Red Rocks Canyon/Blakiston Trail for a quick hike. Being that I forgot everything useful outdoors (especially rain), it starts to rain so the kids and I stay in the 4runner while Melissa and her mom Carolyn do the hike instead. On the drive over we see our first black bear foraging on the side of the road. Good sized fellah. Foreshadowing, because on the trail Melissa encountered that same bear on her hike. From the parking lot, I hear her do what the travel book says and to make noise and to seem visually larger than usual. I didn't know it was Melissa screaming at first because it sounded kinda low. When you scream at wildlife as a defence mechanism you're supposed to sound more like a foghorn rather than a 9 year-old prepubescent boy getting scared at the campfires. My friend Billy can emulate this sound rather well with his basso profondo voice.
10 July,
Travel through Calgary to get to Banff via the Trans-Canada Highway 1. Stopped at a bike store to buy some knee warmers (I needed 'em anyway) to substitute for my lack of pantaloons, exchange American dollars for Canadian ones, and most important: a caffeine fix at the corporate behemoth called Starbucks. Drove to Johnston's Canyon, right outside o'Banff for our next base to plan our next international shin-dig.
11 July,
Woke up super early to do the Sulphur Mountain hike (7 miles)solo. It starts and ends the same points as the Banff Gondola ride. The travel book and signage said it takes 2-5h, I did it in 2h 15 mins. These ungulates were eyeballing me on my way up because my spider sense was tingling. Their stares cut through my music on the ascent which was Wagner's second (out of four) opera of his Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung): Die Walk├╝re.
There's nothing quite as humbling, awe-inspiring, and cosmic one-ness as to hike tempo up a series of switchbacks to be rewarded by these views at any particular summit.

Must be the residual fitness from the Firecracker 50. I return to the cabin and the family's just getting up for breakfast. Once they're ready we do another hike called "Inkpots/Johnston Canyon". 7 miles again. We see some beautiful waterfalls and the Inkpots itself. Inkpots are wells created by percolating groundwater and depending on the sediment and bacteria involved, it makes different hues of water in their respective ponds. Pretty coo' if you like that nature stuff (I love it actually). This time, I should'a worn my hikers instead of my trail runners because my doggies were hurtin' units after carrying Mason on my shoulders.

Had dinner at Bruno's in Banff and asked the rather cute waitress (but not as cute as my sweet Melissa) if she should change the pub TV channel to OLN so's I could get my TdF fix. Later that evening the family goes to the Upper Banff Hot Springs Pool to let the weariness of hiking diffuse out their bodies with the mineral water the transport molecule(s). Being the cheapskate that I was, the Hot Pool looked like a bust. So instead of parting with my $7 American x2, Mason and I walked in and around the famous Banff Springs Hotel (Fairmont owns 'em as well as the Lake Louise Inn). Since our lattitude's so close (I couldn't tell you exactly because I forgot my GPS) to the arctic circle it gets dark around 2230. I like that. It makes the day seem longer therefore we can enjoy our together-time longer too.
12 July,
From Banff to Jasper the highway's called the Icefields Parkway aka Highway 93. Here all manner of people are stopped on the shoulder because the scenery is bizarrely unique, screaming of landmarks made mostly by glaciers and erosion. Very majestic mountains and it's all right there next to you as you cruise the highway. Stopped at Morraine Lake and did a quick hike called "Consolation Lake". This emerald-blue body o'water's Morraine Lake.

Next, we stopped at Lake Louise, missed the cutoff for the gondola ride.

Finally arrived in Jasper at the Pine Bungaloes. Incidentally somebody wrote "F*** America" on our 4runner side window. I think I know which of our neighbors did it and I wanted to write on a sticky note "No, f*** you" and paste in on their front door but I took the high road and didn't.
13/14 July
At Maligne Lake, it starts to rain again, so Maura, Mason, and I wimp out and the girls go for their hike. That evening we drive out to the Miette Hot Springs. This is what a Hot Springs Pool is like and we spend 2.5 hours there. Miette had 4 pools. 2 hot and hotter; and 2 cold and colder. Perfect. I could'a napped there.
15 July
Drive back to Banff and we stop like your archetypal tourists at nearly everything on Icefield Pkwy. Stop at Athabasca Falls

and the Columbia Ice Fields

to photogeek. We spend a little extra to stay at a more posh place called Rundle Stone Lodge where we prepare our dinner in our room. I buy some Quebecian beer to swallow the meal down and later that evening sweet Melissa and I take a night stroll in Banff to geek and to buy eggs, milk, and bread for breakfast and beyond.
16 July
Detour through Yellowstone on our trip back home. We stop at Mammoth Hot Springs
(NOT a pool, could be but you'll boil to death), Yellowstone Inn, and the Old Faithful Geyser.
On our way out we see Teton NP and the Grand Tetons before we bed down in Jackson. The place is almost as busy as Yosemite NP in California. A lot of traffic.
We get home Friday night, just in time for me-the next morning-to get my tired a$$ over to corner marshall the historical Book Cook-Mt. Evans Hillclimb bike race that Tom Danielson won. He's a tiny dude.
I work next week. At least I have a week to recover from post-traumatic vacation blues. Sigh....

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