Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Life Goes On

Our winter-spring transition has been full of ups and downs. A very dry period following Christmas allowed us to climb and hike, activities normally reserved for warmer times of the year. But as February rolled through, winter made its presence known by breathing life into a slowly dying ski season. The ski areas were pleased, as were the many local skiers, and I managed to do a few excellent ski tours because of it.

Elise's first ski tour near Cayoosh Peak in the Duffy Lakes area. She skied 3 km to the cabin!

After the birthdays in early February, both Elise and I came down with a nasty stomach flu, one that hung on for a number of days. Through a series of unfortunate events, Elise developed a negative association with skiing (ski school in particular) due to her illness and this propagated throughout the remainder of the season. Although she was skiing as well as ever, her lessons did not go well leaving a big question mark over how to proceed the following year.

Last day of ski school. Waffles at the Crystal Lodge on Blackcomb.

Ski tour to Red Heather just north of Squamish.

Our two-week Spring Break trip to Pentiction was the next winter casualty. I took a bad fall two days before we were set to leave turning our plans upside down. I bruised a rib and injured my wrist quite badly making it impossible for me to climb or do much of anything. We scrambled for a Plan B, but in the end decided to just stay home and make the best of the situation by walking, beach combing, socializing with friends, et cetera. However, the worst was yet to come.

On the last day of Spring Break, Pam took Elise to ski school in Whistler. Pam skied powder with her friend Jen in the morning and then met Elise for lunch. Elise was having another terrible day at ski school so Pam signed her out and they went skiing for the afternoon with Jen and her son, Eric. Elise loves to race, so Pam agreed to do the GMC race course with her. The light was flat and the snow was sticky. Elise took off and while Pam tried to keep up, she caught an edge and took a bad fall, injuring her left knee. It was bad enough that she had to be taken off the mountain by toboggan. Jen got the kids and then drove everyone to Squamish where Pam was dropped at the emergency room.

Pam ski touring near Mt. Decker about two weeks before the fateful day.

After X-rays and an MRI the following day, it was determined she had a complete tear of the ACL and a grade 1-2 tear of the LCL (the lateral collateral ligament). We consulted with our GP and the knee surgeon from Whistler to formulate a plan. At the surgeon's advice, she was put in a brace to help mend the LCL before undergoing ACL surgery in May - her tentative date is set for the 20th. The irony of all this is Pam was set to have meniscus surgery on her OTHER knee the week after the accident. We cancelled that surgery - a very tough decision - so she now has two injured knees, although the old injury is still quite functional.

Assuming she does not have to have LCL surgery (the worse case scenario) the ACL repair will take approximately 6 months to rehab, so we've cancelled all summer and fall plans. Our trusted physiotherapist in Vancouver, Paolo, has put Pam on a muscle building routine at the gym to prepare her for surgery. This has given her focus and helps fill her days. She's on disability and will likely not work again until next fall.

On the Spearhead Traverse with Jim Sandford. We did it in just under 8 hours,a highlight of my winter.

To help pass the time, we went to Penticton over the Easter holiday weekend and camped with a group of Squamish friends. Elise had a grand time raging in the campground morning, noon and night. The kids brought their bikes and raced along the trails between games by the lake shore. Most did some climbing, but the highlight was definitely the Easter egg hunt in the forest on Sunday morning. The Easter bunny brought lots of chocolate to Penticton.

The campsite at Banbury Green in Penticton.

We are now back at home catching up on work and household chores. Pam has a follow-up appointment with the surgeon in early May to determine whether the LCL has stabilized. This will determine whether or not the May 20th surgical date gets confirmed. Until then, we are trying to find ways to fill our time. Our normally active, outdoor-oriented lifestyle has been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

I'll update as we learn more...

Friday, February 28, 2014

Talent Show

Elise has been taking "hip-hop" dance lessons this winter and when her elementary school announced they were hosting their first annual talent show, Elise jumped at the chance to enter. This video shows her performing her routine for Katy Perry's "Roar". About 15 kids got up in front of the school and performed, and I thought the kids who did solo performances were the bravest!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Birthday Number Eight

The eight birthday party has come and gone. Elise seemed keen, but as the big day approached she confided in me that she wasn’t as excited as she’d been in the past. She said this in a somewhat perplexed manner, and I thought it was an interesting comment. Regardless, she had tons of fun and it turned into a very full weekend.

Her actual birthday was Friday, but we planned the party for Saturday morning since Pam had to work on Friday and thought an after-school celebration would be too hectic. This is how the two-day itinerary panned out:

7:30 am – Official family present opening, favourite breakfast (French toast)
8:30 am – Lego building
9:00 am – Pick up Tim and Josie and head to Whistler to ski for the day with Dad
12:00 pm – Lunch in the Glacier Creek Lodge: fries, hot chocolate and two-bite brownies
3:00 pm – Marshmallow treat at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Whistler
4:00 pm – Lego building back at home
5:00 pm – Hip-hop dance class
6:30 pm – Indian meal out: garlic naan, vegetable pakora and butter chicken
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm – Lego building

8:00 am – Get up, Lego building, get dressed for party
9:00 am – Friends arrive for birthday party, chaos ensues
9:30 am – Pancake breakfast
10:00 am – Crafts
10:30 am – Cake and presents
11:00 am – Climb, jump, dance and rage in the garage
11:30 am – Friends go home, Lego building
1:30 pm – Drive to Levitt Lake, skate all afternoon, bonfire, roast marshmallows
6:30 pm – Drive home in the dark, dinner, Lego building

Opening her presents on Friday morning. She loved all her gifts (thanks everyone!) but she was especially pleased with the Lego Dolphin Cruiser, the present she'd hoped for from Mom and Dad.

Her favourite breakfast, French toast! Wearing the new hat that "Ahnie" knit for her.

Lego work before skiing.

Fooling around in the Horstman Hut with her friend Josie. It was a clear cold day, so we took a couple of indoor breaks to stay warm between runs. While I was taking this picture, some low-life was outside stealing my ski poles form the rack! Luckily the ski patrol lent me a pair so I didn't have to ski the rest of the day pole-less.

A sweet treat from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Whistler after skiing. We save this for special occasions.

In the dress Grandma Bourdon sewed for her, getting ready for her party on Saturday morning.

The pancake portion of the party.

The cake. She asked for a heart, so Pam arranged cupcakes in a heart-type formation.It worked, and was very tasty I must say!

The craft portion of the party. The kids got busy and came up with some interesting ideas. The two boys used the most material, by far!

Amazingly, Tia emerged from hiding to join the party.This after I told the kids "you'll never, ever see her".

Hazel had my vote for the best craft. She made this little blue bird out of plasticine and feathers.

Digging into the cake.

Digging into the presents. All of the kids brought her lovely gifts, including some beautiful presents that were homemade.

Eric Wild made his own wrapping paper complete with complicated artwork. I especially liked the "angler fish" - I had to take a picture.

After the cake and presents the kids requested some garage climbing. In this shot, I told them to all get on the wall. Elise is hanging from the ceiling. It kind of looks like she's levitating!

Things got a little crazy once the music started. Maya is doing a full front flip (!) and Elise is doing her Madonna dance moves to the song "Vogue".

Cooling off with a bit of playground time in the backyard. It was clear but chilly!

After the party finished, we rested and then joined forces with Jen and Eric Wild for some awesome skating at Levitt Lake north of Squamish. Elise was psyched! She really got the hang of skating this winter and loves outdoor ice. She was the first one on the ice and immediately took off. Pam says Elise now skates better than her.

Atwell (right) and Dalton Dome (left) from Levitt Lake. It was a gorgeous day, but this photo hints at how little snow we've got in the mountains this year.

Check out that ice! It was black - clear as glass.

Eric and Jen...

There was a huge fire that burned all afternoon long by the cabins. We enjoyed hanging out, warming up and roasting marshmallows while we socialized with the cabin owners and other skaters.

When I asked Elise how she liked the skating while driving back to Squamish she told me it was the best day of her life! That's a little dramatic, but she really did have a great time. I'd say the two-day birthday weekend was a success this year.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chulilla Wrap-up

We squeezed the most out of our final time in Chulilla. The weather forecast was poor, but we ended up with three good days and a single evening of rain, which was not bad all things considered. Some last photos from the trip...

Chulilla in morning light.

Cliff line above the Turia River gorge.

One of two bedrooms in our apartment at Las Cuevas. It was very comfortable and started to feel like our home away from home very quickly. The owner, Jesus, was very friendly, although he didn't speak a word of English, nor did his wife.

We saw lots of fish (some large) in the Turia River, but fishing was prohibited.

Another photo from the day in the thermal river near Montanejos. Elise gets full points for putting her head in that water and snorkeling. I didn't dare get my hair wet - it was too cold.

Restored castle above Sagunto, a pretty city north of Valencia.

Climbing route name tag.

Citrus fruit grew everywhere around Chulilla, especially oranges which were truly delicious.

Fishing regulations for the reservoir north of Chulilla. I guess using fruit as bait is okay!

Fooling around in the trees by the river.

On limestone, a water streak that builds up to form a protruding column on the rock is referred to as a "tufa". They form in the same manner as stalactites, and there were many in Chulilla. They're great for climbing!

We can always trust Elise to spot fossils on the trail. She has a keen eye and spots the details that Pam and I miss.

Market day in Chulilla. We were off to the Valencia aquarium and Elise wore her Christmas "stuffies" around her neck along with her purse. She wore this heavy necklace all day and it ended up chaffing her neck, silly girl!

The aquarium in Valencia, which is located in the riverbed that runs through the city. We spent a few hours touring the exhibits. My favourites were the glass tunnels, but Elise liked the dolphins best, of course.

After the aquarium, we went to a park for Elise to play. The playground consisted of a giant statue of Gulliver lying on the ground complete with ladders, ropes and multiple slides. The kids swarmed the statue, much like the Lilliputians in the famed story. It was really unique and Elise loved it. She's posing on Gulliver's fingers.

Valencia city beach at sunset.

For our last day, we gave Elise the choice of a few different activities. She choose a "via ferrata" adventure, which is basically a route that follows a series of metal ladder rungs up a cliff face. These are very popular in Europe, but have yet to gain much traction in North America, partially because they can be a bit unsightly due to all the metal necessary. The one in Chulilla was rated "experts only", but we didn't really know what that meant. I think my very words were, "A ladder's a ladder. How hard can it be?" Talk about famous last words. It turns out that "experts only" means the rungs are quite far apart, the terrain is steep and traversing and an ascent requires a mixture of ladder pulling and rock climbing. To make a long story short, we climbed two pitches which took us about half way up the cliff and then retreated, mostly because the rungs were too far apart for Elise. Regardless of the difficulty, she seemed to have fun and enjoyed spitting (!) off the belay ledges.

Looking up...

Still feeling optimistic.

Pam and Elise right before we turned around and rappelled back to the ground.

After the via ferrata "adventure", we decided to tack on one more activity, a hike to Las Cuevas. The weather was looking a bit ominous, but we had rain gear and it was our last day!

The first cave we visited was the long, horizontal roof near the bottom of this picture. It was quite interesting.

After hanging out in Cueva del Gollizno, we continued on to Cueva del Teroro.

This cave was far different, and kind of resembled a snake hole in the side of the mountain. Pam wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole, but Elise was keen, provided I go first. It was hands and knees all the way and ended with a tight squeeze into a small chamber. Elise kind of panicked when we saw daddy long leg spiders on the walls illuminated by our headlamps. I had to calm her down for the return.

Here she is coming out, looking a bit worried after the spider sightings.


We spent our final evening socializing with our friends from Penticton. Our journey home was long, starting at 4:30 am in Chulilla and ending at about 9:00pm in Squamish, but we encountered no problems along the way.

The trip was short but memorable, and both Pam and I were sad to leave. Elise, however, was very excited to get home, see her friends and go back to school! Sometimes I just have to shake my head...

This is what greeted me on the truck in our driveway the next morning: two weeks worth of frost needles from a dry and cold Christmas break. That's the windshield wiper, by the way.

Back to winter...