Saturday, August 12, 2017

Bard 2017: The Tradition Continues

We have had such a great week, full of our vacation adventures . . . and today we carried on our tradition of seeing a play at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver.
Several weeks ago we bought tickets for The Winter's Tale, not knowing if we would feel up to it after our journey.  However, this turned out to be another amazing experience that seemed to complete our holiday.
This was Janae and Ben's third year at Bard, and Alaina's first (since she is finally old enough to attend!).
It was also the first time we were almost LATE for the performance.  I'd forgotten my purse (with the play tickets) at home and realized this when we were almost out of town.  Going back to get it added at least 20 minutes to our trip, and then the traffic was really slow.  The play started at 2 p.m., and we arrived at 1:56.  I wasn't sure if we could still be seated, but luckily it worked out okay.
We had seats in the third row, where we really felt part of the play's experience.

Afterwards, a woman who had been sitting behind us told me it was "an absolute delight" to watch my children enjoying the play, and then when we were meeting up with Jason and Eric outside, one of the actors came up to us and commented on how well our kids had done in the audience--he'd noticed them while on stage.
I felt so proud of my little Shakespeare enthusiasts!
The play was so well done, and I just loved being there.  Alaina even asked if we could go back and see another performance before the season ends.
That most likely won't happen, but we will definitely be looking forward to seeing what the festival has to offer next summer!

Our Summer Vacation Part II: Jasper National Park

As I mentioned in my last post, the scenery between Banff and Jasper was unbelievable. 
We wanted to stop so many times to look at the mountains, waterfalls, and lakes--even though the kids got tired of getting in and out of the car for pictures.

One of our stops was at the Athabasca Glacier, which Jason had visited as a child.

The trail up to the melting glacier had markers showing where its toe had been from year to year.  In this picture Jason and the kids are standing where it had been in 1982--and the trail shows how much further up the mountain we had to walk to get to its current location.

In the past, people could walk on the glacier itself, but now that's restricted to those hiking with a guide--people have fallen into the crevices and died before they could be rescued.

At this point in our trip, Eric was getting a little tired of driving--and of being away from his toys.  He started crying, saying that he wanted to go home. 
But I thought of something that might help him get through: pizza.  So, as soon as we got to Jasper, we stopped at a pizzeria, and all was once again well.

The kids loved the statue of Jasper the bear,

and the campsite here was very similar to the one in Banff.  In both places, the evenings cooled off--and even got really cold--which was a nice break from the constant heat at home.
Our first morning in Jasper, though, we woke up to what sounded like someone throwing things at the side of our tent.  It seemed like a mean prank as we kept getting pelted with hard objects.  We heard our neighboring campers laughing and--pretty annoyed--wondered what was going on.
It turned out that a chipmunk was to blame.  This little guy was running in the tops of the trees--and as he did, pine cones and large sections of dry tree branches were falling from that great height onto our tent.
I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself!
We called the chipmunk Squirrel Nutkin, since we'd been listening to Beatrix Potter audio books on our drive, and this chipmunk reminded us of that cheeky squirrel :)
This happened every morning at about the same time (7:30). 
Our first day we started at Athabasca Falls--one of the most dramatic waterfalls in Jasper.

We learned about potholes caused by churning water,

and saw the incredible rock formations they caused over hundreds of years.

The kids had a great time climbing on the rocks (in places where it was allowed--this was another site with lots of warnings about deaths occurring when people had ventured out where it wasn't safe).

That afternoon we hiked the Valley of Five Lakes.  This was meant to be a 1-2 hour hike, but it took us 5 hours to complete it because of a wrong turn.
The first part of the hike was really fun and so beautiful.  Each of the five lakes is a different depth and--consequently--a different shade of blue.
Here we are at Fifth Lake,

Fourth Lake  (ask Eric about "swimming in the nude"),

Third Lake (my favorite),

Second Lake,

and First Lake.

After the lakes, there was confusion about whether we were going the right way, exhaustion from carrying Eric, dehydration from running out of water, and endurance as we pressed forward, looking for a way out of this nightmare.  We did eventually find the parking lot, but the long hike we'd planned for the next day was off the agenda.
So,the next day we decided to go to Maligne Canyon and do the easy and paved tour of five bridges.  This was another picturesque place with waterfalls and rock formations. 

In the afternoon we drove out to the Miette Hot Springs, at the far east side of the national park.  On the way we stopped at Pocahontas trail, which led to an old mine.

The hot springs were perfect for us--with hot pools, cold pools, and beautiful mountains all around.  Alaina hadn't brought her swimming suit on our trip, but the hot springs had some to rent.  Alaina loved hers so much she wanted to buy it, but unfortunately they didn't have any for sale :)

Throughout the trip we'd seen so many signs about not approaching or feeding the wildlife at the national park--and, although I didn't want to see a bear when I was on a hiking trail, I was kind of disappointed not to have seen one from the car.  We hadn't seen any wildlife at all--and I was really hoping some animals would come along.
I got my wish on the drive to and from the hot springs!
We saw lots of big horn mountain goats and elk



No bears, though.
Also on this drive, we saw an interesting place where people were stopping to swim.  They seemed to be far out in the lake, but still only up to their knees in water.  On the way back to our campsite we stopped, and Janae, Alaina and I walked out.

Janae walked far into the lake, but was still only up to her knees in water!

The next morning we headed home, taking a different route than we'd come.  We stopped to see Mount Robson, which has the highest elevation of all the Rocky Mountains. 

Pretty soon we were back to our green B.C. mountains, which actually seemed small after the Rockies.
We'd all really enjoyed our trip--even the camping--and would love to go back sometime and further explore Banff and Jasper. 

Our Summer Vacation Part I: Lake Louise and Banff

A couple of months ago, Jason and I started talking about a summer vacation.  Since Jason was in school, we were looking forward to having time as a family--and I really wanted to go somewhere I hadn't been before.
We looked at lots of possibilities, and finally decided we'd take the kids to Jasper National Park in Alberta, where we would camp for three nights. 
This year Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday, so we thought it would be a nice opportunity to see more of the country.
I have to be clear about one thing, though: I am not a camper.  The thought of being the mom on a camping trip terrified me--and I wasn't sure if I could pull it off. 
But, I knew it would be an adventure, and I started looking up camping recipes and tips on Pinterest, planning our four days away.
Two weeks before we'd be leaving, however, we changed our plans to include two more days of camping in Banff.  We'd heard repeatedly about the beautiful drive from Banff to Jasper--and all the amazing sights along the way--and I was thinking about the 8 hour drive to and from Jasper . . . and wondering about doing it twice with only two days in between.
So, we booked the last available site at the Lake Louise campground and started to plan for five nights of roughing it in the bush (or at least in a national park campground).
After I'd already booked the site, I started reading reviews and learning that people didn't have very nice things to say about it.  I thought about backing out, but Jason and the kids thought it would be fine . . . so we decided to just go with it.
Saturday morning we started early (7:30 a.m.).  The drive went better than I could have imagined, the kids in good spirits, and the time seeming to fly by. 
TEN hours later, we arrived at Lake Louise, staying in site C-3 (as in C-3PO for all the Star Wars fans).  Jason and four enthusiastic kids set up the tent in no time, and we explored the area.

(Eric is not big on public restrooms, so luckily he brought his own potty along!)

The campground was surrounded by an electric fence to keep out the bears, but we ventured beyond that to a trail that led alongside a beautiful blue stream.

We knew we'd made the right choice in extending our trip.  The campground had an alcohol ban for the long weekend and was very family-oriented.  It had clean restrooms close to our campsite, individual showers with lots of hot water, and--as I mentioned--an electric fence to keep out the bears.

The next morning we drove up to the actual Lake Louise and were blown away by the light turquoise blue water.  The lake was so calm and quiet, even though there were lots of canoes paddling along, and tourists everywhere.

We hiked to a lookout point above the lake, and then had to go back down for another look and more pictures.

We only had one day to see the area, so after the lake we drove south to Banff.  We started at Surprise Corner, where we saw the Banff Springs Hotel, built in the late 1800s.  Later we drove down and saw the hotel close up--we also read some ghost stories that had been recorded there over the years.

Just past the hotel lookout point was a hike on Tunnel Mountain, so we gave that a try.
Eric fell asleep on Jason's shoulders and missed seeing the view from the peak.  Luckily he woke up on the way down so we didn't have to carry him the entire way! 

That night the kids roasted marshmallows and made s'mores.

They loved sleeping in the tent, and did really well this second night.

Then the next morning we packed up and headed north to Jasper.  The drive did not disappoint--the Rocky Mountains were incredible, another amazing sight after every turn of the road.