Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Kootenays

We are back home in Squamish after our trip to the Rockies. The weather is warm and it's shockingly dry, but it's nice to be back in familiar surroundings. On our way home, we stopped for one week in the Kootenays to enjoy summer in the Interior and had a really nice time visiting with my family. It was hot, but we managed to find lots of water in which to cool off. We stayed near Salmo, across the highway from Eerie Lake. Here's a picture of the barn on the farm.

Our mission each day seemed to be to seek out some good swimming. The Interior is great for this as lakes and rivers abound. We spent one afternoon with my mother at Champion Lakes, a twenty-minute drive from Salmo. Here's Elise covered in sand shaped like a mermaid. She loves to play in the sand, but we found that her indoor pool swimming skills did not translate very well to the lake. She preferred to use her "floaty" instead of swim on her own. At least she enjoys being in the water...

While in Salmo, Pam and I went climbing at a limestone area called Metaline Falls just over the border in the US. There is a fair amount of limestone (good climbing rock) in the northern part of Washington and I was interested in checking it out. Amazingly, this cliff was only about a 30-minute drive from Salmo. This is a view of the cliff above the bridge, just west of the town of Metaline Falls.

This is a view of town from the top of the cliff. The actual cliff was quite high, but the zone in which we climbed was quite small - smaller than I was expecting.

The view up up the river. It was a hot day, so Pam and I swam in the river before we ventured to the cliff to climb. The river was slow, but the current still tried to drag us away from the swimming area. To approach the climbing, we drove to the top of the cliff, hiked through open pine forest and then descended a fixed ladder to the cave. It was a pleasant spot.

This is Pam below the cave. The stone was quite nice, but the walls were short. Also, this cliff seems to get very little traffic so the routes were somewhat dirty. If this cliff were closer to a major city, it would be very popular. Regardless, we did a number of short climbs and socialized with the only other climbers there, a couple of guys from Florida!!!

Despite being small, the rock still formed the classic limestone features: drips, pockets and tufas.

A couple of days later, we traveled to another limestone area called Marcus with my father. This zone is also in the US and closer to Spokane. We went for an overnight trip and camped at a nice spot next to the Columbia River. It was smoking hot, but we cooled off in the campground swimming area before dinner and bedtime. Again, Elise would not swim unassisted, but did venture out with her "floaty". She enjoyed getting on and off the raft and fooling around with Grandpa in the water. Here's a view of the swimming raft and the river.

Elise and Grandpa in the Columbia River just as evening was settling in.

The view of the climbing cliff above the campground. The cave is barely visible in the trees, just right of the centre of the photograph.

While at the cliff the next day, I managed to sit down right beside some poison ivy before realizing what it was. I got a bit of a rash, but nothing too bad, luckily. We never worry about it on the Coast, but I need to be more vigilant in the Interior I guess. The climbing was good, but it was very hot again. At least this cliff was higher than Metaline Falls and seemed to get more traffic. The cave was deep and impressive.

This is the wall right of the cave. The rock quality was mediocre, but the climbing was still fun and physical.

Looking out of the cave at the Columbia River. After climbing, we swam in the river again before heading back to Trail and dinner at The Colander, a local Italian restaurant of note.

The next day was our last and we filled it with activities. Here's Elise and Grandma in the canoe at Eerie Lake. We paddled out in the morning and fished from the boat. We caught a sunfish and got it on board. Elise put it in her bucket filled with water, but it splashed frantically, which scared (and soaked) Elise. I tried to get a picture, but Elise threw it back before I could get the camera out. You'll just have to take my word for it I guess.

Late in the afternoon, we drove over the US border again to swim in a small, but beautiful spot called Crescent Lake. The pond is surrounded by limestone, which I believe gives it this aquamarine colour. The water was super clear and we enjoyed swimming, relaxing on shore and some unsuccessful fishing. We even saw a small bear near the end of the lake!

Our journey home was pretty uneventful. We were shocked to find that most of our grass had turned brown after a long, cool June that had left it very green. Fire bans are in effect! If all goes well, we will spend the rest of the summer in Squamish and then head to Maple Canyon in September for some camping and climbing. We've purchased our tickets to Turkey and will be gone from October 21st to December 15th. It should be a great fall.

We hope you are all enjoying the summer!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Canmore Part 2

Our second week in Canmore has flown by. The weather has been on and off, but that's the mountains for you. And it sure beats sweltering in the coastal heat. This has been a very social trip with lots of evening dinners and barbecues. We've got quite a few climbing friends in this area we've not seen for years and we are meeting some new folks as well. One couple, Gary and Kimby, have two kids around Elise's age that she really enjoys playing with. Elise said to us the other evening, "I really like my friends here". Maybe we'll have to move????

This is a picture of Elise and Bella at Heart Creek.

We had a nice family climbing day and the kids got a chance to do a route. These are photos that Derek took of Elise climbing and lowering back down. Cute!

These are a few photos of me climbing that Derek took on the same day. This is a route called The Convincer and is rated 5.12b.

While at Heart Creek, Pam and Kimby went off to do a climb and so did Derek and I. This left Gary in charge of the kids by the creek. When I came back from climbing, Elise was naked from the waist down and riding a metal culvert pipe like a horse. I said to Gary, "What kind of crazy Austrian games have you been teaching my daughter?". Gary is from Austria and we all laughed.

We visited a touristy hike called Johnson Canyon on the advice of some local parents. It turned out to be an excellent hike along suspended boardwalks high over the clear blue waters of the creek below. Three kilometers of walking took us to two different waterfalls, both of which delighted Elise. She walked the entire way and decided she needed to imitate Pam on the way back. Pam was hiking with poles and Elise found two sticks and "poled" her way back, all 3 km worth!

Photos of us on the hike.

The wildflowers are lovely here right now. This is Alberta's official flower, the wild rose.

After the hike to Johnson Canyon, we drove home along the Bow Valley Parkway and finally had some luck spotting some animals. We ran into a group of Elk grazing on the sweet grass beside the highway. This fellow was about 10 feet from the car. That didn't stop multiple tourists from jumping in front of him to take his picture. The say this is one of the leading causes of injuries to tourists each year in the park. I stayed in the car.

We continued our drive and spotted a black object up ahead crossing the road. Sure enough it was a bear, but what we didn't expect were the three tiny cubs that darted out of the trees behind her! Luckily they wandered into a campground, so we took a detour and watched them all forage for food for a good half hour.

Here's photos of momma' with a dirty face from digging in a rotten log.

And here's one of the cubs. Isn't he cute?

We've been trying to catch a glimpse of bighorn sheep or mountain goats, but have had no luck. We drive up the Spray Lakes road behind Canmore at night (a good spotting area), but no dice. Maybe before we leave? However, we have had some great views of the mountains in evening light. This is Ha Ling (formerly known as Chinaman's Peak). Also, it's very windy in this area so Elsie can fly her kite. This is always a hit!

We leave on Friday and have really enjoyed our two weeks here. Our house is very comfortable and it's been nice to vacation with friends in the area, a rarity for us. We plan to spend about five days in the Kootenays on the way home and will be in Squamish for the month of August.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Canmore Part 1

As summer finally arrived in Squamish and the skies turned blue, we packed our van and sped off on our summer vacation. Our destination was Canmore, Alberta, where we planned to spend a couple of weeks rock climbing, hiking and visiting with friends. The first leg of our journey took us north over the Duffy Lake Road and we enjoyed a beautiful morning in the mountains with views of glaciated peaks and glorious blue skies. We stopped for a lunch break at the picturesque Pavilion Lake, just east of Lillooet, and then pushed on toward our destination for day one, Revelstoke.

Upon our arrival, we purchased groceries in town before heading south to Blanket Creek Provincial Park to camp for the night. Elise was very excited to camp because she loves sleeping in the tent - she had eagerly been anticipating this part of the trip for days. After we set up camp with Elise's "help", we enjoyed a relaxing evening with a picnic dinner by a pond and a twilight hike along a nature trail near the river. The campground was on the banks of the Columbia River, but the water was so high that the shore was flooded and we couldn't explore the river bank, unfortunately. After our hike, we played "Moose Bingo" and then turned in for an early evening.

The next morning, we woke early, had breakfast and then spent the morning climbing at Begbie Bluffs, an area some of our friends had recommended. It was nice to get some exercise after the long drive on the previous day. By noon, the weather was heating up so we packed up and jumped back into the van for the final push to Canmore. The drive was slow due to a lot of highway construction and the conditions were hot - we used air conditioning most of the way. After a quick stop at the bakery in Lake Louise, we finished the final stretch to Canmore. Our friends Todd and Penny had graciously offered to let us use their beautiful home near Cougar Creek while they were away, so we drove around, located the house and settled in.

The next day dawned sunny and warm. I spent the morning working while Pam and Elise did a little shopping and exploring. In the afternoon, we drove to Banff and decided to hike Sulphur Mountain, 2200 feet (!) of uphill switchbacks through spruce and pine forest. I carried Elise and, truth be told, was totally spent at the top. I don't know if it was the elevation or heat, but I barely made it. Granted, the hike was long, but I've been doing a fair amount of cardiovascular training and didn't feel unfit. Regardless, the views from the top were spectacular and we enjoyed lounging in the sun and exploring the summit boardwalks. The highlight, though, was the gondola ride back down. Elise had not been on a gondola before and was very excited. She kept commenting, "I've not been on a gondola before!" I enjoyed watching her eyes get big as the car plunged over the rim of the ridge and began its decent.

That evening, we went to our friends, Dale and Nancy's, for dinner. They have a four-year-old boy named Isaac, and Elise had a great time playing with him and all his great toys, including the slip-and-slide on the front lawn! Dale and Nancy plan to go to Turkey this fall so we'll all be together for a couple of weeks. It will be nice to have some friends around and it was good for the kids to get acquainted before we all go to Europe.

Friday we spent the day at Lake Louise. We'd talked this up with Elise before the trip and I think she had a great time. As we approached the lake through the forest and she saw the Chateau and the aquamarine waters glinting in the sun, she turned to me and said, "This is a good day, Dad." We hiked to the back of the lake to climb, but it was really hot so we played in the water at the head of the river delta, which flows down from the glaciers above. While relaxing, we heard ice fall from above, a very loud and distinct sound. I got up the nerve to jump into the lake, which is fed from the melting glaciers above. It was cold, to say the least. Despite my coaxing, Elise wouldn't swim, but she did do a lot of wading in the icy streams.

After lunch, the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up providing better climbing conditions. We enjoyed the excellent quartzite climbs and Elise did a route called "Tom Cat" - twice! After relaxing in front of the Chateau Lake Louise in the evening sun, we visited Lagen's Bakery and all picked out a treat. We ate our sweets by the river, where Elise proclaimed her love for us quite loudly (she's been doing this a lot lately - she knows it gets a positive reaction). We drove home along the Bow Valley Parkway, hoping to see animals, but only spotted a few deer.

Our plans for the coming days are to do some more hikes and walks in the valley, climb, swim if the weather is warm and connect with some more friends. We plan to stay in the area for two weeks before heading to the Kootenays. Elise is very much looking forward to seeing her grandparents, as are we.