Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spain 1

Our journey to Majorca was long, but thankfully uneventful. We left Squamish around 5:00 am for a 9:00 am departure from Vancouver, and flew first to Toronto (4.5 hours) then on to Barcelona (7.5 hours). After a three-hour layover, we took a very short domestic flight to Palma de Majorca, arriving at our destination in the midday heat.

We picked up our car, and on our way out of Palma stopped and bought groceries at a large supermarket. Afterwards, we drove on to Campanet and found our small village house, which is very nice. We spent the next couple of hours unpacking and then headed to a sandy beach near Alcudia for the late afternoon.

Elise endured the journey to Spain well, and was giddy with excitement at the beach. We snorkeled in the shallow waters, built a sandcastle and jumped in the waves. It was a great way to end a long journey.

The next day was a little "bumpy" and started with a $100 Euro parking ticket! (The parking situation in this small village is beyond complex). After picking our jaws up off the cobbles, we enjoyed a nice day at the cliff, but it ended brutally and abruptly when I literally ripped half my finger tip off getting my skin pinched between two carabiners. This is not how I wanted to start my climbing trip. Regardless, we salvaged the evening by driving an incredible (!) mountain road down to Sa Colobra and playing in some large waves in a beautiful cove. Again, Elise was giddy with excitement and loved bobbing in the choppy surf wearing her shorty wetsuit, life preserver and swim goggles! The sunset from the mountain highway was wonderful and we drove home in the dark.

Our second day has dawned rainy, but I'm sure we'll manage to find something interesting to do, like playing "Friv" games on the computer!. More rain is in the forecast, unfortunately. Ironically, the sun continues to shine back in Squamish, after one of the most beautiful Septembers I can remember. Roll with the punches...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Russet Lake

Our final outdoor adventure for the Squamish summer was an overnight backpacking trip to Russet lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Elise had done well at Elfin Lakes the weekend before, so we decided to do an overnight family trip while the nice weather lasted. Initially, I had assumed this would be a much easier outing than Elfin Lakes, but was very wrong in my judgement of the distances involved and the elevation changes. It was a tiring two days, but we were rewarded with a truly amazing setting for a night of camping in the mountains.

We started by getting Elise out of school at noon on Friday. The weather was good through Saturday evening so we knew this would be our best window. We drove to Whistler, purchased a lift pass and rode the gondola into the alpine. Here, Elise and Pam pose outside.

Next, we hiked down to the base of the Peak Chair then rode that to the summit of Whistler Mountain. Elise seemed very keen to see all the terrain she'd only seen in the winter. It was quite interesting, actually. Here, she poses at the top with the rubber duck collection.

From the top of the Peak we set out on our hike, about 10km of rolling terrain through the alpine. It was 2:00pm, so we didn't have time to doddle. We followed Mathew's Traverse along the top of the mountain passing the entrance to the Glacier Saddle, a blue run Elise had skied a number of times and knew well. Here she poses at the entrance.

We continued across through Symphony Bowl following signs to Singing Pass.

The first big uphill portion of the hike was to the top of Flute. Here we stopped for a snack break and rest. At this point we left the Whistler ski area boundary and entered Garibaldi Provincial Park.

The hike was gorgeous and followed a narrow trail over the Musical Bumps toward Singing Pass.

Singing Pass is the forested valley in front of Pam in this picture, and our destination is a lake hidden below the highest peak left of the photo's centre. Still a long way to go...

From Singing Pass to Russet Lake was a three-kilometre uphill grind along many switchbacks. Elise did very well keeping it together through the toughest part of the hike. Here she rests in a meadow of red heather.

Near Russet Lake, we encountered snow. Elise couldn't wait to get some to throw at me! If you look closely, you'll see an evil grin on her face.

Finally the lake came into view. The large peak is Mt. Fissile and the snowfield behind it (on the left) is the Overlord Glacier.

We made haste to the lake knowing we had limited sun left. After a long sweaty hike, we all were eager to rinse off in the lake. I was the only one to fully submerge, though!

Our final destination? The Himmelsbach Hut at the back of the lake. This is where we cooked our meals. Of course Elise couldn't wait to get inside and check it out, especially the sleeping loft. There was a guided group from Boston so we shared the small quarters with about six other people. But we all camped outside in our tents.

The hut with Mt. Fissile behind. The setting was stunning.

We cooked on the benches along the wall. If you look VERY closely you can see Elsie playing in the loft above the ladder.

Sunset view of Russet Lake.

Elise and I on the lake shore.

The night was very peaceful, except for one incident where Elise lost "BK" and we had to turn on our headlamps to find him buried in her sleeping bag. We woke to a warm morning sun, cooked up a pancake breakfast and then relaxed by the lake while Elise built "fairy forts". At about noon, we decided it was time to start the journey home.

After three kilometres of hiking back to Singing Pass, we faced a decision: hike 9.5 km (much of it gently uphill) to the top of the Whistler gondola and ride back down, or hike the Singing Pass trail for 11.5 km downhill, all the way to the village in Whistler (over 5,000 vertical feet of elevation loss). We choose the latter...

The descent started shakily. Despite the trail being wide and gently downhill, Elise kept slipping on the loose pebbles. One slip was quite jarring and she skinned her knee. Tears flowed and band aids were applied. Afterward, I held her hand and the descent continued with much less drama. Here, Pam and Elise pose on the bridge across Flute Creek.

There were hundreds of wild blueberry bushes lining the trail, and we feasted regularly. After having our fill, we continued to the washout at Harmony Creek. Luckily the water was low and crossing was easy.

About 7.5 km down and only four more to go. Everyone was getting pretty tired by this point.

The last four kilometers was brutal and we were all super tired by the time we got to the village. For doing such an amazing job, Elise got a treat of her choosing at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Afterward, we were lucky enough to stop into Comor's and grab her a "new" used pair of skis for the upcoming season, which were a real bargain. It was a successful weekend all around!

We leave for Majorca in two weeks and have compiled lots of information about snorkeling and hiking on the island. My shoulder continues to be problematic, and I'm really crossing my fingers that I'll be able to do some good climbing while on this trip. Our final preparations are underway...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A New School Year

Elise started grade one today, another milestone for her and for us as parents. She was excited, of course, and got a new outfit and backpack to mark the day. When we arrived and walked into the schoolyard she ran towards her friends with open arms and they all embraced. A good sign. However, when she accidentally got into the wrong classroom lineup there were tears, so the morning was not drama free.

We did more hiking on the weekend. On Sunday we walked into Cheakamus Lake with our friends Scott and Annie, and their daughter Olivia, who Elise thorougly enjoyed spending time with. It was a nice day and we enjoyed dinner with them aftward.

Monday we drove to Pemberton to Meet Jay and Amica's new daughter, Mirra. We all piled into their van and drove up the Duffy Lake Road to do a hike into Rohr Lake. It was beautiful and full of fish! We had some very good fishing late in the afternoon and I managed to land one decent rainbow trout (the others all escaped the barbless hook). We finished with a nice meal at the house and then a long drive back to Squamish after dark.

Since Pam is not working this fall, we'll have time to do some couple activities while Elise is in school midweek. Three weeks to go before we leave for Spain...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Elfin Lakes

Elise and I just returned from an overnight trip to Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Park. We stayed in the BC Parks shelter that was about an 11-km hike in from the parking lot, mostly uphill. Elise did great, and we enjoyed two full days together in the mountains close to Squamish.

Gearing up in the parking lot. My pack is almost as big as Elise! Thankfully, I didn't have to carry a tent or stove, as our accommodation was in the shelter which had propane hot plates.

The fist half of the hike followed a road up through old-growth forest. We saw bear poop (fresh) and some interesting fungus. Here, Elise pulls back the bushes for a better look.

Midway up, we stopped for a break at the Red Heather hut and, much to Elise's delight, we found Whiskey Jacks that were willing to eat of our hands.............and packs, and bags, and pockets, and anything else that had some kind of food available.

On the way up, she actually made sense of the trail signs and often choose the right direction based on her interpretation of what the sign said.

Yes, we found snow. And Elise couldn't wait to get some and throw it at me!

Arriving at the lakes. We were tired and happy to be at our destination.

The BC Parks shelter where we spent the night. The lower floor consisted of a kitchen area and dining tables, and the upstairs contained the bunks.

Elise "testing" her bunk. She was very eager to sleep in the upper bunk, but the night was a little tumultuous as she had insomnia. There were other people sleeping in adjacent bunks so I was absolutely desperate to keep her quiet - Elise has a hard time turning down her "volume". In the end, I resorted to biting a sleeping pill in half and giving a piece to Elise. She quickly went into a long, drug-induced slumber that gave us both some much needed rest!

Waking up! We were both a little shell shocked from the noisy night. You've got to love group accommodation.

We hiked down to the campsite below the shelter to have a look. Mt. Garibaldi in the background. Somebody had energy to burn.

The wildflowers were blooming all around. Arnica (yellow) and Lupine (purple).

The very poisonous Indian hellebore, I believe.

For fun, we set up our emergency shelter so Elise could see how it went together. It's pretty basic, just a waterproof tarp with some string, but the correct location is important in creating a decent area of protection.

Lying in the red heather spotting shapes in the clouds.

Eating dinner in the glorious evening light on the deck of the shelter. A German couple took this picture.

The sunset was beautiful, almost worth the hike alone. Because Squamish is in a deep valley we rarely get to see the sun properly set over the mountains. This was special.

Profile of the Tantalus Mountains at last light.

Elise in the meadows behind the lake with the setting sun lighting up her face.

Elise got many compliments on her hiking and we were both pleasantly tired when done. We made plans for another outing next year. She seemed very happy and definitely interested in going back. It was a special experience for me, one I'm sure I'll always remember.