Showing posts with label Activities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Activities. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

We bought a camper!

Not only did we start camping when we arrived here three years ago, but we have been covetously looking at campers. With nighttime temperatures below freezing in the mountains even in July,a camper greatly extends the season. It also gives us air conditioning and protection from mosquitoes during the rare - but becoming less rare - hot spells. It lets the cats come camping with us (although they may hate it and only ever do it once). We didn't want to buy a new vehicle so it had to be something what we already owned could pull, i.e., something small. But we still wanted separate beds for everyone.

So, when Terry saw the camper on kijiji (aka Canada's Craigslist) and it met all our requirements we pounced on it. Even though this is the end of camping season. Most campgrounds that don't specifically do winter camping have either closed or will close after this weekend - Canadian Thanksgiving. Snow will come at any time, it's already October.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Canoe

 Back when we bought the cabin, a friend alerted us to a canoe going cheap. We bought it and stored it under the deck at Terry's dad's until we could get it to the cabin. Then we joined the foreign service and the canoe stayed right where it was.

While visiting this summer, we decided to finally take the canoe to the cabin. In the process of moving it to the car and then to the cabin we noticed how beautifully lightweight it was (one of the reasons we got rid of the COVID canoe was it was too heavy and bulky). We discussed Terry driving it back to Calgary. In the end he did. And this weekend, 15 years after first acquiring the ride, we put it into water! 

Monday, August 1, 2022

Alymer Lookout

 To my delight, and probably everyone else in the family's, I have found a women's hiking group. Much less nagging the family to come with me on hikes I'm not comfortable handling alone!   The first hike I did with this group is also the longest hike I have done in memory (possibly ever) - 24 km in one day. I thought it would be Ok because more than half the hike is mostly level, with a relatively sharp incline at the end to get to those amazing views. so this is the thing about hiking with a bunch of moms: (1) when we started inclining I was definitely the last in line, except for another women who I think just wanted to be sure I made it although she kept saying she was super slow; (2) when someone fell and gashed her knees, there were multiple choices of alcohol wipes, antibacterial ointment, and large Band-aids; (3) at lunch nearly everyone had carrot, cucumber and/or celery sticks. It was glorious. Everyone wanted to be there, everyone was having a great time. I did get blisters and learned that the kids' hiking shoes are really not meant for serious hiking. Also if I am going to continue hiking with these ladies then I will need a serious, decent pair of hiking boots. Given that I wear kids' sizes I am not hugely optimistic about finding what I need.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Alpacas and gophers and rain, oh my!


Before we had ever arrived in Calgary we had heard about the Gopher Hole Museum and it was on our bucket list. Then COVID hit and we didn't really travel. It isn't open year round, either.

Last year friends went to Kirk's Alpaca Farm and had a blast. There's a little shop, picnic benches for lunch, and lots of little kid toys and games around. You can feed the alpacas and hang out with them in their pasture.

These two unique establishments are only 15 minutes away from each other!

You have to book a time with the alpacas because it gets really full. The operation has only been in business a few years and they say each year they are learning a lot, growing the business, and breeding new alpaca babies used to hanging out with humans. They advertised 22 babies and they were so cute!  There's two pastures, one with the moms and babies and one with the males. You get a baggie full of feed and can hang out with them quite a while. Some are happy munching the grasses and some greedily chomp down on handful after handful of feed. The babies were frolicking around. One mom and baby were resting and the mom started growling when I got a little too close. Many seemed unbothered by a little petting of their necks but were more interested in other things to hang around too long. They do have incredibly soft fur. 

We also enjoyed watching the prairie dogs scampering around. They were 100% not freaked out by us humans, with nary a panicked "cheep" to be heard. They were mostly running around, popping out of one hole and into the next. We caught one with a mouth stuffed with grasses - for what purpose we had no idea. 

Next up was the Gopher Hole Museum. Honestly, it was a lot smaller than I had expected - just one room. However, gophers are quite small and the diorama are stacked on top of each other so they fit a lot into the space. The dioramas are quite detailed and pretty humorous. 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Canada Day


This has been an unusual year. The snow isn't melting as fast as usual, many hiking trails and campgrounds that would normally be open are still closed. Lots more bears around because the continued snow at higher elevations means they need to come farther downhill to find food. And, for the first time since 1991, Sunshine Village was open for skiing.

It was only one lift operating (Strawberry Express), and off that lift only two runs. The line snaked far up the end of the hill although I timed the wait and it was only 15 minutes. We had decided not to schlepp our poles up the hill because we were already carrying a bunch of stuff and it turns out we do use the poles more than just as a mental safety blanket. At one point it started to rain as we got on the chairlift and midway we moved into bluer skies and the rain fell away. The rain. While we were skiing. On July 1.

We arrived later in the day because (1) I had meetings I couldn't miss in the morning because this wasn't a US holiday so we didn't get out the door until after 10:30am and (2) there was a car crash that mandated a rerouting so it took an extra half hour to get there. All this to say that by the time we had done two runs we were very hungry for lunch and were comfortable calling it a (ski) day.

After the nourishment it was time to change out of our ski boots and into the hiking boots. Because the lift next to Strawberry (Standish) was open for sightseeing; i.e. the hiking trails weren't open but there was a half mile walk to a viewing platform with truly stunning views.  I gotta say - it was cold. Like, I was not wearing nearly enough and I kept rubbing my ears to warm them up cold. So we didn't stay too long.  With that view, though, we definitely want to return when more has melted, the wildflowers are around, and we can actually hike.  Oh, and the viewing platform was in British Columbia.

Quite an adventure for one day!

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Catching up

 Since the last post, way back in January ... 

  • We've skied. Literally every weekend since January 8 at least one member of the family skied for at least one day. Terry ended up going for the 10 weeks of lessons, and when that ended I started the 4 week spring ski lesson course. Sadly, tomorrow is my last lesson and given how melt-y everything is getting, likely our last time on the slopes until next season. I know most slopes have been closed a month already, but it is a little sad to us. I guess we go back to hiking.
  • We have two new additions to the household: Nikita and Flicker (née Harlow, but nobody liked that name and Flicker suits her). We had been talking about getting cats since before we went to Germany and it was beyond time.
  • Alex is prepping for high school. In Canada high school starts in 10th grade. She applied to, and was accepted at, a charter school that we expect will give her the support and challenge that has been missing in middle school.
  • Terry's been prepping for gardening season. We have a bunch of little baby plants under lights waiting for the right time. Which, in Canada, is way past Mother's Day (normal planting time in PA).
  • I had a short work trip to Dushanbe, Tajikistan!  For three days! 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Maple syrup taffy

 Friday's adventure: maple syrup taffy

All it takes is some boiled syrup (to 235-245F) and snow. Check and check.

In one set of instructions I found online the writer mentioned that candy thermometers are notoriously inaccurate so she uses three simultaneously. Given what happened with our attempt, I'd say she was probably right. By the time the syrup hit the right temp the consistency was definitely off. Several recipes mentioned letting the syrup cool for up to 5 minutes before pouring but this was already hardening.  We did get a few crunchy, hard candy clumps before Terry tried to salvage what was  there by adding water and boiling down again. That gave us somewhat creamy, sweet snow. Definitely not what we were after.

So, we will try again.

And try again we did. That was Saturday's adventure. I took the boiling maple syrup off the burner when it was only about 225 degrees. That created the kind of thick, sticky, taffy consistency that could pull out a filling.

So I guess we need a third try, for that perfect Goldilocks of chewiness.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Some small adventures

 Planning my new year goals and one is to get out of my rut. Try new things again. Lockdown has really gotten me out of the habit, even though one of my favorite things is totally COVID-OK - exploring new neighborhoods (Calgary is pretty low density so there are very few pockets where you have to be within 6 feet of someone on the sidewalk).

One thing I'd read about and wanted to try is making ice lanterns.  Basically you partly fill a container with water, then stick inside of it a smaller container to make the insert where a tea light will go, and set it outside to freeze.  I put one together, and then thought about coloring the second one. It turns out that food coloring will condense in the cold so it's a stronger pocket of green at the bottom surrounded by clear-ish water.  I've also seen examples where people put greenery and berries in the water before freezing. I have lots of ideas now.


The other thing is food. We have complained, well, more than we should have about the restaurant scene here.  Our trip to Vancouver inspired me to look for some of the things we ate there. Tonight it was hand pulled noodles.  We got the fried noodles that we knew the kids would like and a noodle soup for the adults. We got it spicy - the restaurant actually sells its chili oil, which I think Terry plans to buy next time. It was delicious and spicy. I kept coughing and my nose was running. Probably not the best scene in COVID times, oh well.  It bears repeating - it was delicious and spicy.  The kids tried sesame balls with sweet bean paste inside and liked it enough that we ordered a second round. The house tea was also exceptional. I have no idea what was in it - I think goji berries, peach flower, maybe chamomile, maybe chrysanthemum, I think some rose hips .... definitely honey but somehow the sweetness continued through several refillings with hot water.

Anyway, it has fueled my desire to do more exploring.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Halloween 2021

 Things felt relatively normal this year - fewer than half the kids wearing masks and a sense that kids weren't being kept at home due to COVID.  This was also the first year we let the kids go off alone (albeit together). We thought we had a good grasp of what the neighborhood would hold, trick or treat-wise. We bought candy like we still lived in NE Philly. I advised kids grasping at whole handfuls that they really needed to take only one so other kids could be sure to get some candy.


We overbought by about 100.

Other interesting tidbits are the two different business cards we got from two very different businesses - one was handed out at a house and the other was actually taped to the treat. That was something new! And the candy the kids discussed not liking that we discovered were Baileys Irish Cream truffles.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Once in a lifetime

Last night the aurora was so strong and so high we caught a shot of it from our back yard.  We live relatively close to the downtown area, so between trees, neighbor's houses and light pollution, it must have been a massive, amazing show for us to catch that little green line.  It was early enough in the night that I got Alex to come down and take look, although it was past Zoltan's bedtime.

I deeply regret not getting in the car and catching the real show somewhere darker.

(Photo taken with my phone, so one more reason it's not as spectacular as it could have been.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Centennial Ridge


Last week a woman I had met in a hiking group asked if I wanted to accompany her on a hike that, according to Alltrails, is way longer AND steeper than anything I had ever done before. But I have been wanting to push myself so I said yes.  On Friday night a wildfire started on the other side of the mountain we were to hike.  But others were heading up when we met at the trailhead so we decided to go for it.

The smoke at least obscured the sun, making what we supposed to be a "heat warning" day into something way more comfortable temperature-wise.  But, we were breathing in smoke and all vistas were obscured.  The trail is almost unrelentingly steep - we made 1000m elevation gain in about 6 km.  We hoisted ourselves up boulders and slipped on scree on some of the steepest parts.  I gave thanks for my water bladder because it meant I didn't have to stop and pull out a water bottle every time I needed a drink.  Also, it's so thin and light that I can carry a lot more than a water bottle will fit. I drank a LOT of water.

It has been quite a while since I have hiked a mountain where you get to what looks like it will be the top only to find it continues up. Four times we said "almost there" ... four times we were wrong.  We passed the weather sensors, which was super cool because these are on the ridge above the slope where we skied last winter, and every time we check the area's weather and I type "Kananakskis" in the search bar, "Nakiska Ridge Top" comes up and that is exactly where I was.  We continued along the ridge a while, but between the smoke starting to cause headaches and the understanding that we would have to recreate the hike to get some actual stunning views and some photos of something that doesn't look apocalyptic, we cut the hike a bit short (it's supposedly just shy of 16km total and we got to 11.2km).

On the way back we met this little guy.  We took a photo from way back on the trail, then walked a bit closer for a better photo, then realized it didn't seem to notice us at all so we got closer ... we probably could have touched it before it scampered off onto the ledge right beyond where we could see it.  I couldn't decide if it's very comfortable with humans, or has had so few interactions it didn't consider us threats.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Lake Agnes Teahouse

Something I have pretty much never done before - taken a random day off from work to do something fun!  A friend was celebrating her 50th birthday and wanted to do a hike followed by a lunch with a view.

Lake Louise view from the trail

Lake Agnes lies above Lake Louise (you also pass Mirror Lake on the way up) and you start the hike from the Fairmont Lake Louise. Several other popular hikes start from here, and the parking can be impossible on weekends and/or in summer.  Thus, a weekday before schools let out was the perfect time.We also had the perfect weather, bright and sunny but not too warm.

Lake Agnes. Yes that's ice still in the lake. Yes it's mid-June.

While sitting on a bench at Lake Agnes, soaking in the view, a very cheeky chipmunk scampered onto the bench right next to me ... then into my lap!  I held my breath while mentally telling the chipmunk "please don't bite me"... when I did not immediately put food in its mouth it scampered back off. Whew!

It's a mystery why they call this one "Mirror Lake"

We finished the hike at the Fairmont, with lunch on the patio overlooking the lake. Somehow I took no photos there but be assured it was stunning. The water is still the same turquoise blue that Alex swears is a result of dye. 

Three hikes in one week!  Woooot!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Prairie Mountain


As said before, the family vetoes hikes with an incline. So, a little nervous about the possibility of bears, I clutched by bear spray tightly and embarked on one of the most popular hikes in the area: Prairie Mountain. I can see why folks love it - it is only an hour outside of Calgary and 7km round trip. It also covers 700m of elevation, or nearly 2300 feet, of elevation in that time. It is not for the faint of heart.

I tried my best to take many beautiful photos and they all look fake. They also don't nearly capture the view. This happens when all you have is a crappy phone camera because your husband, who wields the fancy (and heavy!) camera, decides not to join.

The summit has a perfect 360 view of mountains and the valley. For some reason my cell phone battery was dying quickly today so I didn't linger at the top past eating lunch. The parking lot for the hike is at the Elbow River so I did pop over there to dip my feet before driving home. Just a bit down the road, I saw a ton of cars pulled over on both sides and assumed there was some hiking trail with an insufficient parking lot. The camper in front of me was trying to maneuver because some of the cars hadn't pulled over all the way. Then I looked to my left and saw this handsome fellow. I pulled over (all the way) and took a couple of quick shots before heading on my merry way home.

Moose and mountains, is there a better way to spend a day?

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Ha Ling solo adventure

Disclaimer: Terry neither took nor edited these photos.

After last week's aborted attempt to hike Wasootch Ridge, I realized I needed conditioning - more hiking. Everyone else in the family had other plans for the day, so over the weekend I took myself to Ha Ling. First impression: wow it seems like the road to nowhere as you head towards. I worried the potholes would break the car. Second impression: I was surprised and delighted to find a parking spot in the parking lot. Third impression: nobody should hike in the mountains in April without decent ice cleats and yet a full half of my fellow travelers lacked them. As some careened down steep parts I feared I'd be knocked over like a bowling pin.

 This hike completely  kicked my behind - I played a guessing game about which body parts would be sore the next day. (Spoiler: more parts than I expected)  It was steep and challenging. All the scree at the top made me fear falling off the mountainside. During the hike, all the nice firm ice the cleats could dig into warmed up and became slush that provided no traction. The downhill was nearly as treacherous as the uphill was. It was AMAZING.

At the top, I was sitting on the rock ledge you can see on the bottom right of the above photo. The snow you see just above it is a relatively thin icing, the other side is just a massive cliff.

These are the mountains I could see during the entire hike once I got above the tree line.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Lake Louise, Take Two

 In deciding where we will ski all of next winter, we realized that a mountain we'd visited once, on one of the coldest days in a cold place, and where we'd finished on a really sour note - was not the way to make an informed decision.  So mid-March we tried again. As we pulled into the parking lot (the third lot entrance, meaning WAAAY to the back) we realized this would be nothing like what we'd experienced before.

It was so much warmer this time that Zoltan frequently complained of overheating. We discussed getting waterproof rain pants he could wear instead of his snowpants for warmer weather skiing.  Even with a much more crowded park we never waited more than 5 minutes to get on a lift. This could definitely be because most folks come to LL to ski the black diamonds, whereas we emphatically did not. However, we did not notice long lines at the other lifts, so perhaps not.

Even Alex enjoyed herself, and she's been a pill on ski trips since she came out of quarantine. I'm whispering this to avoid her notice in hopes she continues to enjoy skiing. 

I still think I prefer Sunshine, with its much wider range of greens and blues (recognizing the kids will likely move to blacks after a few more lessons) and its super fun powder. At this point, what we do next year is anyone's guess!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Elbow Trail to Snagmore Loop


Between skiing, bad weather, and some foolish promises to the kids, we have not hiked much lately. For this trip we had the constraints of needing to be relatively close to home and some cell service. We left the kids at home and hit Bragg Creek.

Ice cleats were 100% necessary, as the melting/freezing cycle was in full swing and the half of the path that wasn't a muddy mess was sheets of ice.  I started the hike wearing: T shirt, long sleeved T shirt, merino wool sweater, fleece, waterproof shell, hat and mittens.  I ended the hike wearing: Tshirt and shell. definitely tested the boundaries of my new backpack as I stuffed layer after layer in as we, and the world, warmed up.

It was a lovely little walk in the woods. There are some great mountain views along the ridge (which we encountered first, having gone the counterclockwise route) and the rest of the trail is foresty. We watched a couple of squirrels have their lunch - I'd never actually seen them eat before. The trail is very, very well marked, which is always a huge gold star in my book.

Friday, March 5, 2021


To finish the trifecta of "SkiBig3" we headed to Sunshine Village on Sunday.  The weather was nearly the exact same as the day before, so perfectly cold, although the sun never came out and the wind howled (although the wind may have only seemed stronger due to nothing blocking it).

We'd noted the warnings about getting there early for parking, and pulled into a spot at right about the middle of the lot at 8:00am. Upon the sage guidance of the gentleman directing traffic, the first folks ready with their gear (Terry and Zoltan) went to (1) buy the kids' tickets as the adults had ours from Costco and (2) get into line for the gondola up to the lifts. 

I'll just say it took 1.5 hours from getting into line to getting off the gondola at the top and leave it there.  Although, needless to say, we were pretty grumpy.  Later in the day we rationalized that waiting for 1.5 hours, then basically not at all, is actually a better deal than waiting between 10-30 minutes for every run. 

In the wake of Norquay's surprises we had done quite a bit of research on Sunshine and had a solid game plan. We started with a recommended green run that was this big bowl and the snow was beautiful powder and it was so much fun!  The lift was short and the runs shorter but the longest we waited in line was 5 minutes.  And the trails are barely trails - there is so much open expanse it's pretty close to "well, everything over that way will be green, everything over that way is blue. Just get down to the bottom however you feel." The guides Sunshine puts out are spot on - we read one that tracked what it called "light blues" and for the runs we did it ran perfectly true.  We got up and down each run so quickly that our legs were on fire by 2pm and we decided to call it a day.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Mt. Norquay

We have a mission to try the main ski mountains in the area this year, to choose the contenders for next year's season pass (only one will win this contest!) To that end, we booked an airbnb in Canmore and had plans/reservations at Norquay and Sunshine.

Saturday was Norquay. From the trail maps things looked beautifully simply laid out - one lift appeared to have trails that were mostly black; one had mostly blue, one mostly green, etc.  We generally start off on green. The lift had five different lines that converge right at the end. We waiting in line 15-30 minutes for each run. After a few runs we decided to try the blue. We followed the route marked "easiest run" - so presumably the easiest blue route down. It was pretty challenging.  It was even more of a surprise because we had tried all the green runs on the "green" lift and none of them were what I'd call a "dark green" - so it was a significant jump.

One thing I found fascinating is the dedication to moguls that seemed to dominate the majority of runs - there was even a green run of moguls - something I had never seen before.  Zoltan enjoyed trying them out and getting a feel for what it's like, and I am sure he'll enjoy moguls even more as he progresses.

All in all, the skiing wasn't very fun and we cut the day short.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Chester Lake

 The fog was so thick I am pretty sure there should have been additional mountains in view.  The hike was a bit of a slog - the "snowshoe" path had significantly more elevation gain than the "cross country ski" track (which is also the summertime normal path). Terry didn't even bother to take photos with the nice camera.

The good news was the day was icky enough to keep folks at home, so even though we didn't arrive until around 11am there was plenty of parking.  It's a really popular snowshoe trail but the snowshoes were not needed as long as we stayed on the trail. It might have been icy but we had our ice cleats on from the beginning so we wouldn't know. There was one steep part that we "sledded" down on our behinds.

Guess we'll have to go back with better weather!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Lake Louise, negative 30 degrees

The kids have a 5 day weekend (one has a 6 day weekend but I put in a dentist appointment, bwa-ha-ha). So, Terry and I took off Thursday - the first day of this holiday - and we booked a ski day. Due to COVID and being working adults who have to ask for time off and coordinate with others in our respective offices to do so, we were loath to try to reschedule when the weather report threatened below-negative-thirty for the day.

I am definitely the chilly-Chelsea of the group. To be sure to stave off frostbite I wore: (top) wool base layer, fitted merino wool sweater, flannel shirt to divert the itchiness and a very heavy wool sweater, of course topped with a warm ski jacket; (bottom) wool base layer, Polartec fleece ski pants from 20 years ago when I last skied, and insulated ski pants. And alpaca wool socks. A balaclava with COVID-y mask underneath and my helmet and goggles, plus new Columbia mittens with their reflective technology (and hand warmers in the tip of each mitten) finished off the look. One important lesson we learned last week skiing - cotton masks soak and freeze. Go with synthetics when you are looking at severe weather.

We were trying out the farthest slope from home - Lake Louise, clocking in at exactly 2 hours away. Between being mid-week and the forecast, the place was empty. We got a sweet parking spot we'll never see again, just 2 rows over from the reserved section. When we arrived the lifts hadn't opened yet even though we got there an hour after the slope normally would have opened. We also got coupons for free hot cocoa for the kids as a reward for braving the weather.

By 10:30 the first lift opened, and by the time we re-geared and got out there it was a bit later. We knew there was a whole back mountain area and the resort was huge, so we weren't sure about things like where to leave water and lunches and such that we had been doing, if we were to bring any. So we took a tiny backpack with a Contigo of cocoa and a couple of snacks, and the various items of gear that got shed at different times. We planned to eat a hot meal at one of the cafes. And away we went.

This was our first ski outside Nakiska and ... wow. The runs were longer, there was no ice anywhere, and what felt like a million more options although that could be misleading because half the runs are black diamond, which nobody is ready for. The views are stunning. We were super bundled up although we had a few setbacks with fogging goggles, chilly toes that required hand warmers (and thus the ordeal of removing and then replacing ski boots). We actually managed a pretty normal day of skiing. On one run, the powder was so thick I worried not about slipping on ice - the normal east coast issue - but about a ski getting stuck in a thick mound of snow.  I estimate that all the time we spent going inside to warm up or drink a hot beverage would probably translate to lift lines in a future visit;  so the general experience of how many runs we could get in is relatively accurate, minus the slow start. there was literally no line at any time.

The downside, and this was huge:  to get from the back mountain to the front you can ski various runs or you can traverse a run called "ski-out" that appears to go sort of around the mountain and return to the base area. It is 2.5 miles. Nowhere is it explained that you will be walking on level or even uphill ground for about 1/3 of that trip - until you are already about 100 feet into the journey. It was hot and miserable and really ended the day on the wrong foot :-(