Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas

Christmas in Hawaii got off to a very rough start, unfortunately. After a fun Christmas Eve spent hanging out with Grandma, Elise went to sleep in her “nook” in the hallway only to wake at 7:00am on Christmas morning with a nasty stomach bug. Her spirits were good initially and she was able to open a few presents (she got art lessons from Santa), but the flu intensified as the minutes ticked by, which quickly put an end to the Christmas excitement.

She became very ill and spent the remainder of the day writhing in bed, completely inconsolable. We did our best to keep her comfortable, but there was only so much we could do – the illness needed to take its course. Needless to say, it was a very unfortunate way to spend Christmas and we were all housebound because of it. Regardless, we made the best of each other’s company, opened our presents and said silent prayers that the flu left the rest of us alone. Stay tuned…

Friday, December 14, 2012

Santa and Archery...

Elise had her school Christmas concert last night and a good time was had by all. There was a bake sale, pictures with Santa and a silent auction before the show, and we had fun mingling with the other families. The school put on a great play and we enjoyed watching Elise get up on stage and boogie to the class song. She was eager to sit on Santa's lap and, after much deliberation in the car, asked him for art lessons. As she jumped off his lap, I asked her how it went. "Good", she replied. I wonder if she'll get her art lessons?

On a rainy evening last week we went to the local rod and gun club for archery night. None of us had ever shot a proper bow before, so this was an interesting activity (and an interesting cultural experience). Elise thoroughly enjoyed it and actually hit the board on a few occasions. I found it tough to aim straight and missed the target repeatedly, but Pam made a few good shots. We'll go back, I'm sure...

The countdown to Santa has begun...

Friday, December 7, 2012


We've been back from Spain for close to two weeks now and have quickly fallen back into our old routines. I always find this rapid adjustment after a lengthy trip somewhat unsettling. The memories from the adventure are still crystal clear, yet in a strange way it feels as if the trip didn't actually happen, or if it did happen it was a very long time ago. It's a bit hard to explain, but I imagine the contrast between where we were and where we call home is so great that it's hard to mesh the two "existences" together into one cohesive picture. I'm sure Elise doesn't experience this, but Pam likely knows what I mean...

Regardless, we have a couple of weeks before we head off to Hawaii for Christmas vacation to visit Ron and Sharon, and we are busy catching up on work, reconnecting with friends and skiing. The winter has started well up on the mountain and Elise and I enjoyed her first day out last Saturday. She skied very confidently on her new skis and we both had a nice time. She starts lessons after New Years and we are all anxious to see how she likes them.

For the month between trips we signed Elise up for taekwondo, an activity she had personally requested. You pay for one month and then attend all the classes you want (there is one each evening). I think she went three times last week, and that was only because we had engagements on the other two nights. She really seems to like it. The classes are playful yet disciplined and she seems very drawn to her teacher, a martial arts expert the kids simply refer to as "Sir". How long her interest will last is anyone's guess - she's six after all -  but she claims, somewhat convincingly, that she wants to get a black belt. Time will tell...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Spain 9

We are at the end of our 2012 trip to Spain. Our final week was blessed with dry weather and we took full advantage, making a list of the goals we wanted to accomplish before our journey home. On our final evening in Sella, I hiked up to the church above town with Elise and asked her what her favourite part of the trip was. Without a word, she looked at me then looked at the orange cat following us up the dark, cobbled road and pointed directly at him. In other words, the best part of the trip was the cats! After some probing, she conceded that the beaches weren't bad either...

Final trip up the Penon to visit the summit cats. This hike had an unfortunate ending, but that's not a story for this blog.

A wild pig hunt took place in Sella the weekend before we left. As we drove to the cliffs in the morning we saw trucks and hunting dogs everywhere - we knew something was up. After climbing on the sunny cliffs for awhile, we packed up to go to Wild Side and quickly reached a barricade on the road preventing us from driving (or walking) any further. The valley was closed for the annual pig hunt, and the picture below shows the result. Not a good deal for these poor pigs...

A couple of days later, we did a lovely 10-kilometre loop hike adjacent to the climbing area. The walk followed an old road to the head of a valley below a mountain pass, then traversed forest to an adjacent valley before descending to the climbing area. It was scenic and peaceful, and we thoroughly enjoyed a casual exploration of the pretty countryside.

We passed an old house ruin near the pass and Elise and I enjoyed exploring what was left of the property. The only portion of the roof still standing were the timber supports.

The rain we endured sure brought out a lot of mushrooms, and we often saw locals foraging through the forests with their mushroom baskets in hand.

Beautiful light near the end of the hike. This house is perched on a ridge just above the "Wild Side" cliff.

Evening light on the Devino. We hiked to the summit of this iconic peak a week before. Climbers do scale the steep walls lit by the sun, but this wasn't for us.

Nighttime in our village.

The rains caused many plants to flower. This is the street in front of our apartment.

We did a day trip to Denia, a pretty coastal city where the Mallorcan ferries land. We enjoyed cold (!) swimming in this pretty cove and beachcombing just south of town where we found a great collection of nice seashells.

Elise near the Denia marina.

There were a few "nice" boats...

Our final hiking objective of the trip was the 1408-metre-high Puig Campana, the second highest mountain in the province. Climbers scale the steep walls on the west side of the peak, but a good hiking trail switchbacks up the north slope with an elevation change of 1004 metres, a hefty load for sure!

We started by hiking through a burned zone on the side of the mountain. Elise on the trail; fall colours in behind.

The trail led through pine forest to a pass, where the summit trail diverged.

As we switchbacked up the scree slopes, we saw mountain goats traversing the ledges. Look closely in this picture for the white objects. This is the best I could do without a big zoom lens.

Below the final stretch to the summit we encountered a couple of local hikers. We had trouble communicating, but this fellow reached into his pack and pulled out a small box. Inside was a collection of tiny objects he'd made using wire. He offered one to Elise and she was delighted...

Although the day started sunny and clear a cloud descended on the peak just as we arrived, obscuring our views. We decided to hang out and see if it would lift. Elise signed the summit register while we waited.

A small window opened up through the mist. This is the view west (away from the sea) showing the rocky ridgelines around the Sella climbing sectors.

On the top of Puig Campana!

A small fire kept us warm...

The clouds didn't clear, so we headed back down. Elise and I scrambled up to a notch between the peaks and found a wooden cross and a great view!

Of course the skies cleared as soon as we descended. Evening light on the valley below the peak.

Moonrise over Puig Campana. 

For my final climbing day, I chose Cabezon de Oro, a beautiful  cleft in a ridge about 45-minutes from Sella. The orange-streaked stone was amazing, the setting was stunning and, as always, we had the entire area to ourselves. I had a successful climb so we finished early and headed to Villajoysa for some afternoon beachcombing. It was a good day - a nice way for me to finish after a difficult two-months of injury laden climbing.

For our final day in the Costa Blanca, we choose a moderate, multi-pitch route above the sea. Elise really does seem to like multi-pitch climbing and this was our second of the trip. The day was absolutely glorious - we couldn't have asked for more. The route we did was named "Lara" (4+) and it was three pitches long. The climb went without incident and we descended the cliff by rappel before enjoying our lunch on the ledge at the base. It was a fitting end to our trip and we bumped into a couple from Squamish, of all places, as we were heading back to the car.

The gorge across from our climb.

View from our route.

Elise on pitch number two.

 Back at the base after a successful climb.

With time to spare, we headed into Calpe (home to the Penon) to enjoy the last of the afternoon sun at the beach. It was brisk - a cold wind blew across the sand - but Elise eventually stripped down and started frolicking in the water. Pam and I, wrapped in our parkas, looked on in amazement. What can I say? Elise inspired me so I stripped down and jumped into the Mediterranean one last time. It was COLD, but we swam and splashed until Elise's lips turned blue. Time to get out! The water in Hawaii at Christmas will be downright comfortable by comparison.

On our final evening, the orange cat that followed Elise and I up to the church returned to our apartment and spent the evening lounging on our laps. The owner of our apartment, Steve, said his name was "Garfield". Just before it was time for Elise to go to bed, she walked over to him, put her arms around his neck, kissed him on the forehead and said "I love you Garfield". I'm pretty sure she's going to be some kind of crazy cat lady with dozens of cats roaming her home when she's an adult...

We are driving to Barcelona today (Sunday) and fly home tomorrow morning. If all goes well, we should be back in Squamish by Monday evening. Over and out from Spain...

Marc, Pam and Elise...