Oh no – Snow!

We’d seen the weather forecast. We were prepared for wet conditions, given the 90% chance of rain. But snow never even entered our minds. Not far into our journey away from Calgary toward Banff, the raindrops assumed a thicker, fatter quality and the realization of what we were seeing dawned on us all at once.Snow in CanmoreBy the time we reached Canmore and stopped for lunch, the accumulation was undeniable. Trees were straining under their heavy white burden, and green grass had been replaced by a snowy blanket. We settled into a local restaurant, enjoyed exceptionally good food, and had a good laugh at Mother Nature’s joke. Rainy weather was just unpleasant. But snowy weather on June 9 was an adventure.

 

If we learned anything about the Canadian Rockies today, it was how quickly conditions could change. Water rushing through Johnston CanyonWe gradually left the snowfall behind, replacing it with drippy skies, clouds, and the occasional burst of sunlight. Hiking through Johnston Canyon, we managed to stay mostly dry while marveling at the thunderous volumes of water plummeting down the river. The brown swirling current raced by at a torrential pace, exceeding the boundaries of its normal banks, and showering us with spray at its waterfalls.

View near Lake LouiseTraveling the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise, we were rewarded by lifting clouds that rose enough for us to see the towering mountains beyond the pine trees lining the road. The dark formations of the peaks, largely covered in snow were majestic and particularly stunning in contrast with the greens of the pines and the growing blue patches of sky beyond. We were surrounded by mountains in all directions, alternately materializing and slipping away behind swirling clouds. We finally knew we had arrived – Canadian Rockies, Day 1. Snow and all.

Canadian Rockies here we come!

We are about to embark on the third and final College Graduation Trip!  Diplomas were handed out Memorial Day weekend and the new job begins July 9, so this is our son Erik’s final hurrah and our special time together before he heads out into the “real world.”

The destination is the Canadian Rockies, and the focus will be on hiking in the mountains.  Erik’s choice is one of those featured in National Geographic’s Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Spectacular Trips.  That’s a pretty good recommendation, even if he didn’t know it when he made his selection.  After months of research, countless visits to TripAdvisor, and reading way too many reviews, we have all our reservations and are ready to depart on Saturday.  Here is the basic plan:

  • Arrive in Calgary and immediately head up the Icefields Parkway
  • 3 nights in Lake Louise, hiking in Banff National Park
  • 4 nights in Jasper, hiking in Jasper National Park, with a side-trip to Mt. Robson Provincial Park
  • 1 final night in Banff, then return home

The goal was to limit moving around and maximize time spent outdoors.  We also chose accommodations in simple cabins.  Erik would have preferred “back country” lodgings, which require hiking in to reach them.  That sounded like great fun, but the timing of our trip precluded such adventure, as they do not open until later in the season (something about snow conditions…).

If time, inclination and internet connections permit, I hope to blog along the way.  But there is also something to be said for unplugging.  If it comes to choosing between an evening bonfire and blogging, I  already know which will win.

Tour de Pepin

“You cycled all the way around Lake Pepin?” was the astonished reaction. Yes, and we had a great time doing it!  The Tour de Pepin is just that – a 72 mile cycling tour (not race) around the famed widening in the Mississippi River that is known as Lake Pepin.  The ride provided prolific panoramic views of the lake, charming historic towns, impressive river bluffs, and beautiful spring flowers along the route.  In a word, scenic. And we had a gloriously sunny day on which to enjoy the whole experience.

Coming from a background of running marathons, I had to readjust my expectations in terms of event logistics for a cycling tour.  Rather than traveling on a closed course, we shared the local 2-lane highways circling the lake with car traffic.  However, my skepticism was quickly allayed, finding generous shoulders on nearly the whole route, which provided a comfortable margin for cyclists.  Instead of rushing through water stops for only enough time to sip without choking, we took advantage of the rest stops to dismount, wiggle any stiffness out of our bodies, refill our water bottles, grab a snack and chat with other cyclists.  Socializing was half the fun!  There were no mile markers to chart our progress, but the route was well signed and mileage was posted at each rest stop.  Besides, we had our Garmin GPS watches to tell us how far we’d come.  The one odd dissimilarity came at the end. While we didn’t expect roaring crowds or need a finisher’s medal, we did feel a sense of let-down finding only a few leftover refreshments on a small table dwarfed by the event awning – and not a single person.  Granted, we had been well supported along the way, but we were looking forward to that final opportunity to exchange experiences with other participants.  Perhaps such is the nature of tours, where the two-hour starting window narrows the flow of finishers down to a dribble.

The course had a reasonable number of hills on the Wisconsin side.  But there was a distinct stand-out.  Just one look at the elevations of the course makes it obvious…

Personally, I think this view overstates the case – yes, it was long and steep, but it was very doable, even for a new cyclist like myself.  But it does make for a dramatic story!  And best of all, the rest stop on the other side featured free ice cream cones, courtesy of Flat Pennies Ice Cream in Bay City.  That was the best ice cream we’ve ever tasted!

For cyclists wanting the scenery, but not the full distance, there are 32-mile and 50-mile routes available.  They also feature a ride on the Pearl of the Lake Paddlewheel boat across Lake Pepin back to the start.  And I’m sure it’s no coincidence that they don’t have to do that monster hill.  But they miss out on the ice cream.

Finding Inspiration

I’ve been displaced this week.  Voluntarily.  I’ve been spending my days in the home of my daughter and her husband, taking care of their new baby and her older brother while my daughter returned to her 2nd grade classroom to complete the year with her students.  As a result, I was in a “foreign” environment, without access to my own familiar resources.  But what a benefit – I made some wonderful discoveries and came away with new sources of inspiration.

My first find was a book called Heroes for My Son by Brad Meltzer.  It was a small book, lying on the coffee table, almost disguised among the assortment of children’s books.  I picked it up and was immediately taken with the premise and content of the book.  It is a collection of 52 individuals, hand selected by Meltzer for their virtues and talents, as life examples for his son.  Its beauty is in its simplicity.  Each entry is comprised of a single black and white photo, and a few concise sentences that capture the qualities that define the individual.  And finally, a quote by or about the hero.  Many, not all, are famous, and each is selected for a character trait not a specific accomplishment.  It is a book to be savored, but I found myself wanting to read on to the next, and the next.  The inspiration it contained was heart-warming and lasting, as the stories were so memorable.

Next was music.  Thumbing through the iPod connected to the music system, I selected the album Just Relax: Mexico by Lifescapes.  The music was calming yet with nice variety, unlike some of the other more boisterous selections on the device, and made for good listening.  It turns out that Lifescapes is a series of music CDs developed for Target Corporation, which in all honesty was a bit of a turn-off for me.  But reading more, I discovered that it started with a small group of musicians from the Twin Cities area, who “came together with one mission in mind… to create a fresh and authentic music collection tuned to everyday life.”  Where the inspiration comes in is their message that followed: “Think of your life as a film where you’re the lead character in your movie. Every day you live your life in big and small ways, through seasons of change, through good times and hard times, through passing moments and memories that’ll last forever.”  I scoured the website, trying to discern just who those original artists were, and which were the initial CDs, but they left no clues.  Still, I’m interested enough to check out other titles and artists in the series.

Not bad for a week spent largely in the absence of other adults!