Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On To Canada

We said goodbye to all the family and added a few more miles onto our journey to drive up to Banff National Park in Canada. My one request was no more camping; our three nights in Glacier were alright but I was ready for a shower and bed. So we got a deal on a little condo. We were twenty minuets out of the park but had plenty of space. The kids loved the hot tub although Natali kept calling it a hot spa- yea no clue where that came from.

Canadian National Parks are way more commercialized that American ones, for example- in the town of Banff, right in the middle of the National Park, there is a Louis Vuitton store - can't get that in Glacier! There is a major Highway right through the park as well. All that aside, I can' t even express how beautiful it was. The glaciers- well lets just say when we left Glacier Natali still had no clue what a glacier looked like, but in Banff she had no problem recognizing glaciers. I loved it.
This is Crow Foot Glacier. The bottom toe has melted away but it still wasn't too hard to explain to the kids how this glacier got it's name.
Our first night we put the kids in PJ's and went for a drive. Here they are in front of Lake Louise with the amazing Victoria Glacier behind them. The lake was such a cool milky color from the glacial flour. The next day we rode a gondola up the ski hill and looked down on Lake Louis again. It was so incredible but also kind of rainy so the pictures from the top weren't great but the view was unbelievable. There were also some trails closed because of bears in the area - so Greg really wanted to go exploring (he bought bear spray before the trip just in case - I'm not kidding), but the kids weren't in the mood to hike. They loved the ride up and just wanted to go back down - I think they would have joyfully gone up and down multiple times but I was only paying for once. Natali even picked out which gondola she wanted ride and patiently waited till it was avalable. On our ride down she asked Greg, in the chair in front of us, to take our picture. He took the picture, but while taking care of the kids riding with him he forgot to zip the camera back in it's case. So when he got off the chair the camera crashed into the pavement. He picked it up to take another picture of Natali and I getting off and that's when Natali said, "Hey Dad your camera is all broken." So this picture is a little weird because it was taken through the broken glass. The filter was shattered but miraculously the lens only has a little chip. It still seams to work alright but it's hard to tell if the image is as good as before - all things considered we were very lucky.

Of course we spent a lot of time looking for animals and were rewarded with 5 more bears, elk, deer, big horn sheep, and a porcupine.We think this one might have been our only grizzly.My favorite part of the trip was our hike to Moraine Lake. It was a simple little hike from the shore of a seaming uninteresting lake up a terminal moraine. Yet, when you look down on the lake from up high you suddenly see the spectacular color of the water. I have never seen anything so beautiful. I love this picture of the kayak down below because the color contrast is so stark. The next day we drove up into Jasper National Park in order to see the Columbia Ice Field. Waters from this ice field drain to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Ocean. The drive up there was spectacular- right up next to the Rockies. Once we got there we rode on what they call an Ice Explorer.This machine drove right onto the Athabasca Glacier. It was markedly cooler up there but the kids loved having their coats on and throwing ice at each other. They climbed all over the designated area and loved the ice explorer. It was amazing to see how thick the ice was and to learn more about glaciers. However, one of my favorite parts had nothing to do with glaciers. We were the only Americans in our group and at least half of our group were Asian. Well a family with 5 kids draws attention almost anywhere you go - but throw in the fact that most of the kids are blondies, and one less than 4 months old, and you are a magnet for Asian tourists. Every time I got on and off everyone pointed, smiled, touched, gawked at my baby and while on the glacier some people were taking pictures of our kids rather than the glacier. We even had one man ask to pose with our kids. It made me laugh. Natali thought it was so weird.

Everyone loved the ice explorer ride, and more than one kid came back with cold, wet feet from jumping in cold pools of melting glacier.

Well that day got a little crazy when Greg decided that since we'd already gone that far we might as well check out a little more of what Jasper National Park has to offer. Let's just say we put a lot of extra miles on the trip that day and didn't get to our condo till 12:30am.
The next morning the kids took one last dip in the "hot spa" while we loaded up our stuff. We headed home by way of Kootenai National Park where we stopped to see the paint pots. We were expecting bubbling pools of odd colored water like in Yellowstone - not quite. This area is covered in streams that leave behind minerals that make the soil a deep orange color. Apparently, the Native Americans used to come here and use the soil to make paint. Early English settlers also used this soil to produce paint. The bottom of our shoes were totally orange along with any pants, hands or knees that touched the ground.
It took us two days to get home but the kids were great in the car. I have to thank Barbie's Princess and the Pauper movie and the singalong extras on the Anastasia DVD - the trip wouldn't have been as smooth without these tools.
At summers end we have seen 48 of the 50 licence plates plus 9 Canadian Provinces, been through 7 states and 2 provinces, seen 14 bears, and spent too many hours in the car to count and we'd all do it again, but maybe not for a few years.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another 2300 Miles - Part One

That's right, we love the van. This time we were headed to Glacier National Park in Montana. We started out the trip with a beautiful drive right down the winding Clearwater River. Sadly, I didn't see most of it because I was curled up in a ball with my jacket over my head trying to sleep off the car sickness. I was very grateful when we reached Missoula for the night.
While we were eating that night Mack was acting kind of odd. After a while he looked at me and said, "Can you just pull these teeth out." That night in the hotel room Greg plucked out both of Mack's extremely loose front teeth. We are still getting used to his new look.

The next afternoon we met up with Grandma Nani, Papa, and a bunch of Easton cousins. Kate, Marley, Mack, Andrew on a hike through a cedar forest.Most of the kids stayed and enjoyed swimming in Lake McDonald. Kate also enjoyed a nice nap on Papa's lap. Meanwhile, Greg, Mack, Beth, babies Emily and Piper and I went for a drive and hike. Greg offered Mack a dollar if he could sing the whole state song without help. Well much to Greg and my surprise Mack sung it all without a hitch and was thrilled to get another dollar to add the two the tooth fairy brought.

Glacier was gorgeous. We didn't see much wildlife but the scenery was incredible. The Going-to-the-Sun Road lived up to it's name. You drive right along the edge of the mountain up and up. I was glad I wasn't driving. At the top there is a place called Logan Pass. It is the starting point for a number of great hikes - but I have never seen a less effective parking lot. Basically, the lot was full so you have dozens of cars driving, fighting, glaring, honking, trying to get the next available spot. We drove around for about 25 minutes (Greg's sister was waiting even longer). We eventually got a spot because Greg got out of the van and walked around talking to people who were leaving - then using our walkie talkies he directed me to spot. It was exasperating.

Eventually, we got on our hike and it was so worth it. The three mile round trip hike went through a lot of snow, which thrilled the kids. Andrew discovered that there were ground squirrels running around everywhere. Every time he saw one he would yell, "Ground Squirrel!", like it was the most exciting thing he had seen all day. It reminded me of the dogs in the movie Up. It was pretty funny and it lasted our whole week long trip. The hike felt longer than it was and the kids started getting worn out but we were so near the top so we convinced them to press on - it was so amazing. There was this pristine lake in a gorgeous valley. In addition, there was a group of mountain goats right at the top. We got pretty close up. I could have just stayed there all day - but the baby was ready to keep moving so we headed back.
After a restful night refilling our air mattress only two times :) Greg woke up early and went on a long hike with Beth, Derrick, and Piper. I let the kids sleep in and play with cousins till it started pouring rain. So we loaded up and drove over to Many Glacier where Greg was hiking now in the pouring rain. The kids and I went into the beautiful lodge there and ate our lunch out on the balcony over looking the lake. This was the view.
It was so peaceful and beautiful. I loved the Many Glacier area and wished we would have camped over here -next time! Everyone eventually met up at the lodge and rented row boats. The kids loved the boat ride but I think Greg's arms got a little tired.
Kate refused to go one the boat -she is not a lover of boats - so she, Emily, and I sat at the lodge. There was a man playing a violin inside and Kate was mesmerised. She just danced, watched, jumped, and enjoyed the music. She and Emily received a lot of attention and comment. I loved just sitting in this beautiful place, with beautiful music, enjoying my little girls.

We managed to see 2 bears, went on some nice hikes, played with cousins, swam, row boated, and had snowball fights. We loved glacier.