Tuesday, February 25, 2020

More ice falls - Canmore


We celebrated President's day with our first overnight in the Rockies. We stayed in Canmore, at a hotel that was 15 minutes away from one of the hikes we planned: Grotto Canyon.  When we pulled into the parking lot - having scored the very last spot - we discovered that we were missing one set of ice cleats and Zoltan had no handwear.

So we decided to see if we could check in early. It was fully booked the night before, it was just checkout time, and therefore no. The gentleman behind the desk very helpfully mentioned that Canmore does boast a Canadian Tire and they sell ice cleats and gloves and mittens. Off we go!

With shopping done and our eyes still on that prize, back to Grotto Canyon we go. As we had hoped, folks who had gotten there earlier were starting to leave and we were able to park the car. Alex did her usual tween thing of whining and complaining and reminding us of how much she hates hiking.  Until we got to the river.

The cool thing about this hike is that it is literally impossible in the summer, as much of the hike is on top of the frozen river and alongside the falls. I kept staring at the waves of ice underfoot - it was as if the river instantly froze in the process of flowing. (I was also very happy we decided to buy another set of cleats, as my bright idea of me and one child each wearing only one cleat would not have worked well).  The cleats we found were a tiny bit too big so they kept slipping to the side during one particularly slippery and steep part of the river, so I did not adventure quite as far as the rest of the family. Zoltan, even with his sturdy cleats, managed to slide down part of that steep, slippery river. It was terrifying to watch but he said it was exciting and just a little scary.

The hike was sufficient adventure for the day so we went back to the hotel, checked in, and let the kids have a run at the hotel pool. We dined at the Iron Goat, which is fun to say, and hit the hay in preparation for a long Sunday.

Monday, February 17, 2020

An Ode to the Ice Cleat


So, I'm not really writing an ode. Although it would rock. We have had experiences with Yak Trax but it was nothing like the joy the ice cleats brought us during the recent hike through Johnston Canyon in Banff (not to be confused with Johnson Lake, also in Banff, but currently closed for the season).  On a number of occasions I would look at my fellow hikers holding on for dear life to a railing or a side of the cliff and wonder why they were being so dramatic. At one point Terry showed me the sheet of ice that covered the path I just tromped down. I had not skidded a millimeter. Oh, ice cleats, why have I only discovered you now?  And, for added joy, they are one of the few items that are actually less expensive to buy in Canada!

All the tourism literature and bloggers compare it to Narnia/a winter fairyland and it is a pretty fair comparison.  I've now officially made it a personal goal to find and hike all trails that involve frozen waterfalls in the two-hour radius around Calgary.

The trip to the Lower Falls is about 1/2 mile and to the Upper Falls another mile beyond that. If it weren't for the fact that you pass directly by the Lower Falls I'd say give it a skip. The Upper Falls were absolutely breathtaking. We watched an ice climbing crew preparing, and a few individuals summiting the frozen waterfalls.  One family with a toddler and a dog looked to be preparing their own climb and we were very interested to see how they managed, but things were proceeding slowly and we moved on.  Side note: Terry disagrees about which waterfall was nicer.  He enjoyed the lower falls and the cave you could go through to get a better view.  The photo at the end is from the lower falls. Side note: Lynne would describe the "cave" as a hole in the rock.

A decent section of the trail is an open-grate catwalk with railing. Just before the last catwalk to the Upper Falls, there is an option to head off the main trail and head down toward a smaller falls.  This was the ultimate discovery and a highlight of the trip. Not only was the frozen fall spectacular; not only could we walk within a few feet of a deep blue pool being constantly refreshed from an apparently (but obviously not entirely) frozen fall; but also we were able to sneak behind a different frozen fall and catch a glimpse of the world from that unique angle.

We created a new verb during this trip - "snowbanking"- which means throwing yourself into a snowbank and taking a rest.  The hike did have its strenuous moments and Terry and I really felt how out of shape we are, so the kids' requests for snowbank time were honored about half the time.  The photos show each kid "snowbanking." They asked every 5 minutes or so, and for a three mile round trip they probably snowbanked a dozen times or more. Towards the tail end we got a bit nervous about getting out of the park before the sun went down.  So the request to "snowbank" we honored a little less often.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Baby it's cold outside

A fun thing to do when the weather gets down below -30C is to make your own snow. Just get some boiling water, pour it into a cup and throw it into the air!


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Canadian Tire

A phenomenon we had never even heard of before our move is the magic that is Canadian Tire. They do in fact sell tires (I wasn't entirely sure). But in addition, they sell every thing you can possibly think of. Kids need ice skates? They even sharpen them in the shop. Looking for a shower curtain or bed sheets? Sure thing. Clothes? Indoor shoes for school? School supplies? It's Canada's Target. And also somehow K-Mart-y. But no food.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The park by our house

I guess four months in a house (one of which was away) isn't TOO long a delay for discovering the charming park around the corner. I can only imagine what it is like in the summer, but this being Canada I have to imagine the stream will be flooded with children. At least, I am sure mine will spend disproportionate time there.

Disclaimer: these photos were taken with my phone, Terry had nothing to do with them.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Happy birthday to me

This was definitely a birthday for the books. The mantra of the day for the kids was "Kind, loving, agreeable" - meaning if their words or actions were not one of the three, they had to knock it off. For the first time ever it worked!  So first gold star of the day - very little bickering, no fighting, yelling, crying.

We went downtown and started to break in the museum membership I received from my father as a birthday gift. The museum has an interactive section where adults and children can work on art projects inspired by two temporary exhibits. The kids worked on making prints on pieces of foam and on re-purposing everyday items after having wandered for a few moments (I stretched it as long as I could) through the related exhibits to see what the artists had done.

They were so interested in their projects we left the museum 20 minutes later than planned - gold star number two.

We met Terry for lunch at the delicious Korean place near work. The kids only complained about the egg on top but after we pushed it away they ate until full and agreed it was delicious. I call that a win - gold star number three.

Next up - ice skating at Olympic Plaza. The Zamboni came out as we were tying our skates and then we spent an hour on the ice. Randomly, an ice sculpture was unceremoniously unveiled while we were there. Interesting fact: This park is the epicenter of Calgary's "ringing in the new year" activities (hence the ice sculpture) and there were about five times more people on the ice at midnight when we saw it on the TV at home.
By the time we were ready to head home, it was time to pick up my birthday Made by Marcus cake. We have recently discovered this local ice cream place and have really enjoyed getting a cone there. Sadly, we all had to admit later that Rocky Road is not their best flavor. I mean the DQ ice cream cakes the kids got for their birthdays were better.  Ah well, live and learn.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Third time's a charm? Three strikes you're out? Bad luck comes in threes?

In the nearly 20 years Terry and I have been together prior to Calgary I can think of five ER visits: each of Alex's broken arms, when Zoltan "broke his head wide open" (needed one stitch), when Terry rolled the tractor over his foot, and when baby Alex had a fever and I foolishly went against every instinct to just wait another day.

We arrived in late July. We had our third ER trip recently. Dayenu! (Enough!)

Trip #1: our third day at post. We had gone to Shakespeare in the Park and after the performance Zoltan fell off the stage while playing around. He refused to put any weight on his foot for 2 days, we finally decided to get that checked out.
Diagnosis: Dramatic license

Trip #2: Zoltan is sort of, a little bit, run over by a car when on his way home from piano practice. In an abundance of caution, the driver called the police and ambulance, and the paramedic (when I arrived on the scene) convinced me to let them ambulance take him to the hospital to get checked out.
Diagnosis: Overabundance of caution, but we couldn't have lived with ourselves if he had internal bleeding and we hadn't gotten it checked out.

Trip #3: Terry was cutting our new ice skate guards down to the right size and his hand slipped on the boxcutter blade. We first thought it was simply a bad cut that would need stitches then realized he couldn't move part of his finger.
Diagnosis: sliced tendon. Needed surgery and will have a splint for up to 2 months.

In hindsight, only one of those visits actually needed to happen. Feel free to ask us about how "awful" Canada's "socialized medicine" is (hint: we feel so fortunate to have gone through all this here.) 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Troll Falls



Our first attempt at hiking the Rockies in the snow didn't go all that well - the temperature was significantly colder than predicted, Terry and I weren't properly attired, and I also realized a coat is too long for proper hiking and I do need a warm jacket.

So, fast forwarding a few weeks: we had the free day, the clear sky, and the apple cider to spice, heat and throw in thermoses.

Troll Falls is a recommended easy half-day trip from Calgary (between the 2 hour round trip and the quick jaunt to the falls). It is also highly recommended as a winter hike.

We almost didn't get there with all the stops the kids made to play in the snow. Seriously, the first kilometer took about 45 minutes. When the sign said it was only 0.3km to go, we got hardhearted and said no stopping until we get there!

It is early enough in the season that we could see water still running down the falls on the inside of the ice. From the front was all ice, and from the back it was all ice, but in the middle water ran. Our cameras were unable to capture this.

Climbing up the side of the falls is a recommended treat and Alex did not need to be told twice. The only regret is that we didn't have ice cleats, and the icy area just behind the falls was way to slick to venture towards without them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Snowy Days

We got a decent snowfall overnight and the kids played outside most of the day. Using the snow they shoveled from the walkway as well as almost all the snow from the yard, they have constructed their own little living room in the back yard. Two chairs, two "beds", a table, some shelving. Also, my favorite, is that they constructed a giant Mancala board out of snow and they are using gravel from the side of the house as the stones.

The next day was our fist trip to Banff. We foolishly trusted the weather report and did not dress warmly enough for the hike we had planned, so instead we took a much shorter route. The kids have been complaining that they don't like hiking ... apparently, when "hiking" becomes "walk for a bit and play in the snow a lot" they are huge fans!

A blog post I can no longer find recommended the Park Distillery for eats and boy was that a good call! Between the beef and the buffalo burgers, the ah-may-zing Hikers Salad, and the really delicious house tea (I was too cold for a cocktail, although they looked tasty) it was a perfect, hearty way to refuel after all the playing (I mean hiking).

Sentences you never think you'll utter

Last weekend edition:

Was the gorilla always wearing that purple tutu?

If the onion was going to bite anyone, it would have been me.