We’ve had a couple … well … not sure what word to use to describe the past couple days. How about “grumppfll”?!
Let’s start where I ended the previous post. We undertook a day trip to Lake Louise, and hiked up to the tea house at Lake Agnes. A 7k hike, entirely uphill one way (fortunately what goes up, must come down). Lake Louise is truly magical; the water is a spectacular turquoise thanks to the rock flower from the glacier’s activity that reflects the sun. Surrounded by steep mountain tops, this is understandably another well-visited tourist attraction. Our hike started out not-so-fun: “I hate hiking!” “What’s the point of hiking anyway?” “I need to rest” (as in, I hiked 10 minutes, I now need to rest for 30). We persevered and finally hit our stride, thanks to playing games (“I go on a trip and take .. an apple, a billboard, a circus animal, a dagger, an egg etc” — thank you Colette for the inspiration!!), and making up story after story to keep those little legs moving. The kids were so proud when they made it to the top. High fives all around, especially for Elyse! With a scenic picnic at the lake, and sweets at the tea house, we soon forgot our effort. All-in-all, it took us 6 hours. That’s no record by anyone’s standard, but hey, we did it.
On the way down we scouted animal tracks at Mirror Lake (not a mirror this time of year), and Vincent stumbled in…. Soggy steps the rest of the way for him.
The next day, we set out for Jasper, via one of the crown jewels of Canada – the Icefields Parkway. The drive did not disappoint. There’s over 100 ancient glaciers, spectacular waterfalls, dramatic rock formations and many bright turquoise lakes, amidst thick pine forest. The highlights for us were Bow Lake and our stop at the Athabasca glacier.
This glacier is one of the six main “toes” of the Columbia Icefields. Impressive today still, but it has lost over half of its mass in the last 125 years, and receded more than 1.5 kilometers. If memory serves me, the glacier lost 135 million cubic meters of ice (does that sound about right?). According to NASA (earthobservatory.nasa.gov), glaciers around the world have lost an estimated 8,000 cubic kilometers of ice. These glaciers are critical sources of fresh water for us humans, feeding our lakes and rivers. The Athasbasca glacier is estimated to disappear in my children’s lifetime … From the pics we took, you can clearly see by the edges how far down and how far up the ice used to be packed.
Our kids however were most impressed by the safety signage, warning everyone not to set foot onto the glacier for risk of falling through the crevasses of the unstable glacier toe. There were some dramatic signs of rescue efforts, and of a nine year old who did not survive his fall. Our kids got the message loud and clear. No crawling behind the safety line!
Now, we had not made reservations for a campsite in Jasper. Not smart. This was the last weekend before school starts, and a holiday weekend. We wanted to stay 5 nights, but could only secure a spot at Whistlers campground for 2. The kids loved that place – there is a large playground and lots of other kids to play with. They made new friends easily, played, biked, and got mega-dirty. You can imagine their disappointment that we had to move again the next day… Epic meltdown. And a grumppfll day. Meltdown for having to move campgrounds, meltdown for having “nothing yummie” at the bakery for lunch, meltdown for having to change our kayak plans that day due to weather conditions and time constraints, meltdown for having to leave the playground (which we had driven back to especially for the kiddos, so they could play some more with their new friends), meltdown over the dinner menu. Anyways, not our finest day. And when the kids kept it together, it was mom or dads turn to meltdown and lose our patience. It made us realize how much the kids need playtime and time to engage with other kids. They had already asked if we could please stay more nights at the same place. It’s not always easy to be together 24/7 in a small space, moving every couple of days, and covering lots of miles. The lows are lows for sure, but at the same time, the highs are extraordinary highs. We take our personalities with us on this trip, and there’s no escaping our family dynamic. What worked at home, works here. What did not work at home, gets magnified here. On a day like that, it’s easy to doubt our decision, or to let myself get dragged to pity-city. But then there’s the next day. With a good night sleep, conversation, reflection and an apology, our optimism quickly re-emerges. We’ll figure this out… One day at a time…
We finished our time in Jasper with a visit to Lake Maligne, and rented kayaks. A storm came rolling in, so the winds picked up and we got a bit of a workout. We all loved spending time on the water in this grand setting. That same day, we had splurged on am evening wildlife viewing tour. While we had seen our share of wildlife already, we were all eager to learn more, and maybe, just maybe, spot a bear. (Well, mom and dad wanted to spot a bear. The boys had seen one crossing the river the other night at our campground!). But rain came pouring down, and animals dislike rain as much as we do apparently. So no bear. They are likely making their way up the mountain, getting ready for winter and hibernation. We did manage to see big horn sheep, and 2 young male elk testing their battle skills. Our guide did an excellent job educating us about the local wildlife’s habitats, procreation, feeding grounds etc. Did you know that male elk have a harem, where the females establish their pecking order? If the females at the bottom of the totem pole don’t get enough attention, they might just sneak off into the woods with a younger elk :). The boys drank it all in. They asked some interesting questions afterwards!
We packed up a day earlier than planned to head out to Yellowstone. We had a lot of miles to cover, and decided to chop up the drive with one more segment. We drove the Icefields Parkway once more in the opposite direction, and we were treated to threatening clouds over the mountains. Yesterday we drove 5 hours, and today will do the same. Driving time turns out to be the perfect time for me to write, and keep our budget spreadsheet in order. As I do that, the kids are in the backseat happily drawing comics, playing games, and picking out the music. We’ve had a couple good days now & I feel optimistic! I’ve had enough “grumpffl” for a while.
Let’s talk homesick then. This morning, a river of tears flowed as our youngest cried she missed our home, and her friends, and her teachers at school. Breaks our hearts. But I get it. I’ll get homesick too. We all will. And we’ll pull each other through.
What helps us stay sane, is to keep up our exercise regime, kind off. Both Steven and I are putting in more running miles for cardio, and we have already broken one of the exercise bands we brought with us for strength training. We are determined to keep it up, but ugh – neither one of us likes those early morning, before-breakfast-and-coffee workouts!
We are well on our way now to Yellowstone. We just re-entered the US (and handed in our fruits to the friendly officer …). Over a distance of just 200 miles, the landscape changes drastically. From the mountains in the Rockies to the plains of Montana. Wheat fields as far as the eye can see. The kids are in bed, whispering and giggling. These are the moments. These are those precious precious moments when I know without a doubt that we made the right decision.
Tomorrow laundry and school day! Check out the gallery.