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.

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