Monday, October 26, 2020

First snowy hike of the season

It was meant to be the first snowshoe of the season, but there wasn't enough snow and what was there was pretty packed down. Because we meant to snowshoe we picked a pretty short trail to get the kids used to their new, larger snowshoes. Johnson Lake was beautiful, as pretty much everything in Banff is, with picture perfect photo ops right off the parking lot - things we keep in mind in case people are able to travel in the next 2 years and either or both of our mothers visit.

The trail is flat, just circling the lake. The ice was tempting to the kids, although it was clearly not strong enough and the entire center was still liquid. There were minor snowbanking moments, really just getting used to the way we hike in the winter. Some complaining of course, but even that felt perfunctory and not really heartfelt. It was a perfect day, blue skied and crisp - a perfect antidote to the gray relentless snowing of the last week.

The exciting wildlife sighting today was a fox!

After the loop, we popped over to Two Jack Lake where the kids hung out in the car, eating their lunch and trying not to bug each other too much, while Terry and I wandered a bit along its shores. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020


 We've had snow on the ground for a solid week now. Alex's days of riding her bike to school are probably over until May (assuming kids can actually continue in-person education until then). I just read this quotation and had to laugh, as we certainly embrace the snow in this family!

If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life 

but still the same amount of snow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Dinosaur Provincial Park

In every adventure we have had since arriving in Calgary, we've left the city and headed west - to the mountains, towards British Columbia. For the first time ever, we went east. For two and a half hours it was a flat and boring as Kansas (not my observation, but the observation of colleagues from Kansas). But then, as we drove to the park's parking lot, the terrain opened up to a surreal, Martian-like landscape. Hoodoos!

I knew the park was large and that we were allowed to climb the hoodoos, unlike in Drumheller, home of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Fun fact - so many people don't look at maps before heading out that scores of tourists find themselves at Dinosaur Park, thinking they can just pop down the road to Drumheller and are very sad to learn they are more than 2 hours away from each other, that the Provincial Park home page for Dinosaur has a huge notice explaining this fact. 

As the name of the park suggests, many dinosaur fossils have been found and continue to be found on the grounds. Protocol for finding fossils is to leave them alone and absolutely no removing them from the park. We did not find any. There are two fossil displays: in one, the bones, mud and other artifacts of nature are preserved exactly as the first explorer found the skeleton and the second is a replica of a dig site, with the tools, bones, and detritus of human presence (mostly old water bottles). We climbed and descended, lost a member of the party and found him again, and finished the day with ice cream, about an hour later than we had expected to be at the park.

As we drove in, we grumbled that we would never return. An hour into the day, we resigned ourselves to definitely coming back at least once.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

A busy weekend

It turns out to have been a good thing that we had already told the kids we'd head out for our Canmore bike ride later in the morning, as we didn't get to bed until after 1am. We didn't sleep as late as we wanted, but we did sleep as late as our bodies and our little Stomp-a-lots let us.  

We got to Canmore around lunchtime, with the goal to check out one of the restaurants we hadn't yet tried. Our original plan was to take the patio seating, but, well, it was pretty cold. Mountains tend to be colder than prairies.

After our fortification, and a stop at the Canmore Visitors Center for maps, we were on our way! We took a route along the river, and headed toward where there was supposed to be an abandoned mine.  We didn't really find the mine, but did find the abandoned coal car to the side of the bike path. What fall colors exist here (shades of yellow and green) were out in full force. We kept stopping to admire the trees, the deep blue skies, and the river.

Next morning I was up early for a hike with a friend. Terry's Sundays are booked with football and Alex hates hiking so I decided to stop moping and get out there. We headed toward an area where there are three major hiking routes within a couple of kilometers of each other - we heard these particular hikes get very crowded so we wanted choices. 

Why these hikes, you may ask, if they get so crowded? Larches. Before you Google that, a larch is a deciduous tree that changes color and drops its needles. They are comparatively rare, and even around here - a haven for them apparently - there are only specific pockets of space where one can find them on a hiking path.

Anyway, it was a bit of a comedy of errors relating to the overcorwdedness, long line for bathrooms, difficulty finding parking, and then we hadn't communicated well where we'd meet back up so I was by the bathrooms looking for her, while she found where I had parked the car and waited for me there. All this to say, we actually started hiking more than half an hour later than planned. And then we realized the trail we planned to take (Pocaterra Cirque) was (1) like a traffic jam full of humanity and (2) super slippery from all those feet packing down the snow into ice. Yep, Snow/ice all over the trail. On September 27.

After about 10 minutes we turned around and decided we'd hike a different trail. We made a beeline for the least trafficked of the three (Arethusa Cirque). There were a number of fits and starts there too, many photos taken at the earliest stages of the hike and many references to Alltrails because to be honest, the trail was often not obvious. I was so grateful to have downloaded the route in advance!

Monday, October 12, 2020

Adventures in baking

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, a much preferable holiday to celebrate than Columbus Day, although the coincidence of the dates is food for thought. 

We were invited to an outdoor, socially distanced Thanksgiving dinner.  The kids have been really rocking their baking game, so we set them to be in charge of our contribution, dessert. They decided to bake it today, rather than on any of the other three days that have passed since they last attended school (they do go to school on Fridays, sometimes!)

They were preheating the oven and came to me to see if I could figure out why it wasn't warming up. I tried a few things, then called in the actual engineer-type in the family. He also could not discover the reason, but we did confirm there was nothing that was easily troubleshooted (troubleshot?) We had a couple of options and had to decide how to proceed. The broiler would turn on, so whatever the problem was, it was at the bottom of the oven. We didn't want to disturb our landlord on Thanksgiving, and no repair person would be working today anyway.

One option was to ask a friend to use her oven. I would be driving her to the dinner, so figured if there's any risk of COVID or transference we'd already be taking risks with her. We decided to hold that for last resort.

What we did do, and didn't seem to go too badly, was to use the broiler to our advantage. We'd turn the broiler on to heat the oven and placed the oven thermometer where it was easily visible (note: the extra chore Zoltan did a month or so ago to clean the oven door was definitely paying off!) We put the cookies in and stationed one family member to keep an eye on the cookies/the oven thermometer, turning the broiler off/on or opening the oven door as the temperature wavered more than 10 F degrees in either direction. A few cookies got a bit browner on the top than ideal, but nothing burned and they all tasted as good as ever.

Creative problem solving for the win!