Saturday, August 24, 2013

26 hour lei-over in Hawaii

To break up our trip to New Zealand, a friend of mine, Elia, suggested we stopover in Hawaii for a day.

Brilliant idea. 

We landed at 9PM in Honolulu and headed straight to the Waikiki Prince Hotel. It's basically the cheapest form of accommodation in Honolulu aside from staying at a hostel. 

The hotel used to be an apartment building that was converted into a hotel so most rooms have a fully stocked kitchen inside. The building is old but well kept and very clean. 

The staff there were also really quite friendly!

Dave and I were up super early for our kayaking trip. We got picked up and driven to Kalui Bay, which is about 30 minutes from Waikiki. 

After some safety talks and brief introduction to paddling we were off!
Getting ready to launch

On our way out to the island
Beach landing. Seriously so many other people here!
Nesting Shearwater birds

View towards Oahu

It was a beautiful, sunny day with almost no wind. The water in the bay was so unbelievably calm that day, even Andrew, our guide, was amazed. Dave and I quickly got the hang of the whole paddling thing and were motoring along quite nicely.

The whole way out to our destination, an island bird sanctuary, we could see the bottom of the ocean floor. I couldn't believe how beautiful the water was, nor how warm it actually was!

We landed on a white sandy beach and set off right away for a little hike to the other side of the island. It is full of shearwater birds that were nesting. There were literally eggs and fluffy little chicks everywhere we looked. The perimeter though, is the only part humans are allowed on, so that they are left undisturbed.

Along the way our guide pointed out some invasive species, including spiders and these weird beetles. He also picked up some sea urchins for us to hold and touch... The kind that hadn't learned to shoot its needles out at you yet! 

He also told us about some of the history and how the rock/Hawaiian islands were formed. 

After about 20 minutes along the rocky shore we made it to the sheltered little cove on the other side of the island. It was spectacular. It was sheltered from the ocean and just beautiful. Here we got to cliff jump and free dive in the saltiest water I have ever swam it. It took me about 10 minutes to work up the courage to cliff jump, but I did it!!  Once in the water, it took almost no effort to stay afloat. 

After some time there we headed back to have some lunch that was provided... Subway sandwiches... My favourite... 

We had lunch, then snorkeled around the beach  we had landed on. It was so neat to see so many fish! You really didn't have to go very far to see some cool things!  The coolest by far were the sea urchins that were about the size of a 5 pin bowling  ball.

The water the whole day was so warm! Quite a nice change from the glacier fed bodies of water in Alberta! 

On the way back, to the island, it was basically a turtle safari. They were everywhere! At two different points, they were right beside our kayak, and I could have reaches out and touched them. Dave was sitting at the back and almost hit two of them with his paddle! 

Overall, a fantastic day out kayaking. We couldn't have asked for more!! The company we went with was Two Good Kayaks. I highly recommend them! I might consider packing more for lunch though cause we were starving by the end of the day. They also pick you up and too you off anywhere in Waikiki. 

To kill time, Dave and I had and early dinner at a Mexican restaurant. He ordered a burrito and America did not disappoint. It was the biggest burrito ether of us have ever seen. Picture a one liter Nalgene bottle and add about one inch to its length. Dave devoured it like a champ and then we set off to find some free wifi in the shade.

We ended up wandering around Macy's for a bit and then heading to Starbucks. Since we were hotel-less I also ended up showering at the beach. It was a little weird soaping up while everyone else was waiting to wash the sand off their feet, but it was worth it! I was clean.

What a day!! So amazing, I know I will be back for a longer trip!

Before I end this post I will leave you with a fun fact about the Honolulu airport: Thirty years ago they banned gum from because people kept sticking it everywhere, so you can't buy gum there! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Adventures in Leaving Canada

Disclaimer: formatting issues are due to blogger app. 

Leaving Calgary on Friday was really when it hit me. I won't be back for a year. I won't see my family or friends. 
I won't have steady income. Nothing will be familiar.  On our way to Summerland Dave and I always joke about stopping at the Enchanted Forest, ongoing to everyone's favourite goat walk at the Log Barn...  I always say we should go on the way back.... But that won't be happening!

The day before was spent packing and organizing our things. Dave had just finished work at the Tim Horton's Ranch and has basically been living out of his car.  In the past two years he has been driving back and forth between Lethbridge, Calgary, Grande Prairie, Summerland and the Kananaskis.  We had his car all packed up and ready to go to B.C. when Dave goes,"I don't know where my passport is."  And what do we get to do next? Unpack the car in the dark and rummage through everything to find it. Adventures!

Of course, I forgot a very important clothing item, my gortex rain jacket and had to get my mom to mail it out to Vancouver.  Dave's drivers licence also arrived that day, so my mom had to go back to the post office after she had literally just sent my jacket off.  Oh yeah, Dave's drivers licence expires in November so we had to renew it before we left. Which meant my mom had to go get his international driver's licence for him from AMA too.

We arrived to a hot, sunny Summerland. Dave still had a lot to do. He had to go through his things and get everything packed and ready to go. It took quite a few hours over two days get get it sorted out. I had some time to head to the Penticton Saturday market. If you're ever in Penticton on a Saturday over the summer, you need to check it out. They have tons of food, clothing and fresh produce along with some entertainment.  It's such an impressive market for such a small place.  The last time we were there, Dave and I bought coffee from a guy who roasted the beans in his backyard. The coffee was amazing!! This time though, I bought a gallette for breakfast.

We also had time to head out onto the lake in their boat, which was absolutely lovely!  The next day while Dave had some father-son bonding time, Judi and I went out onto the lake for a kayak.  Seriously, such a different lifestyle when there is a large body of water nearby!! And wine...lots and lots of wine! Also the fresh fruit.  And locally grown vegetables.  

Dave's parents drove us to Vancouver from Summerland on Monday. What was supposed to take four hours ended up being more like 7 because of an accident. I guess it was a good idea we didn't get dropped off the day of our flight, because it would have been a very tight squeeze to make it on time!

We got dropped off in Surrey and our adventure immediately began. Our baggage is barely manageable and we hauled it up to the Skytrain platform and got on. Well Dave got on and I was too slow and didn't make it. The look in Dave's face when he turned around and saw me on the platform was hilarious. I don't think I will ever forget it. It was too funny! I shouted at him to get off at the next stop and off he went! We were reunited about two minutes later. Great start to the trip!!

That night we had dinner at an Indian restaurant with some friends. Maryam, a good friend from high school, Susan and Darcen, good friends from work and as luck would have it, Matty, a good friend of Dave's from camp, who was in Vancouver escorting kids back home. They have a serious bromance going on, that's for sure!

We had Tuesday morning to do a few last minute errands. I got my rain jacket and Dave's driver's lisence from UPS (thanks mom!!!!).  Afterwards we met up with Susan and had some Japadogs for lunch! Dave's first Japadog experience! He is a fan. 

Thanks goodness Maryam came with us to the airport. It made things so much more manageable!! 

At the airport, the Westjet lady helping people at the self check-in kiosks asked us, "Are you going camping there or something??"  Yes. Yes we are.

We are definitely going to miss everyone in Canada!! Thank you everyone for your love and support. Big extra special thank yous to our families for helping us organize, mail, and get to places!!! Love you all!!!! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Perspective is Everything! - Old Goat Glacier, July 28th, 2013

Also known as the day Jenn and Michelle went out together without Steve.

Originally, our plan for the day was to go climbing at Grassi with Kory, but Kory ended up getting sick. Jenn and I quickly decided we weren't going to waste the day and made plans to hike and climb indoors at the new rec center in Canmore.

We discussed going on a shorter hike so we would have time to get to the rec center and be back in Calgary for dinner.  At no point in my life have I ever called a ten kilometer hike 'short', but that's what we decided on!

The trail has very little elevation gain to begin with. It seemed fine at first, but it was really quite damaged from the flooding. There was one part of the trail that was undercut and being held together with moss. It definitely bounced up and down when we walked on it, and on the way back there was a hole in it.  Before we started, a conservation officer stopped us and warned us the trail was open, but people were being discouraged from hiking it because it was "really rough".  It was rough at some points, but not the point where it wasn't hike-able. Perspective, I guess is everything!

About 2 km in, there is some trail damage. The part I'm standing on in the photo is completely undercut due to the flooding.

Further in, there was major washout damage. The trail disappeared for about 400 m and was replaced by a labyrinth of rocks and uprooted trees.  We wandered for awhile with a group of really nice Japanese hikers. The blind leading the blind.

Further in, the trail had been washed away by rocks and other debris.  We wandered aimlessly for a little while before we found the trail again.

Once we were passed this part, the trail opened up to an avalanche runout. Again, lots of rocks had been washed down during the flood.  Across the runout was the rest of our hike. From our perspective,  it looked daunting...steep and rocky.   I think it also contained about 600 m of the 620 m elevation gain on this trail spread out over approximately one or two kilometers.  Once we set out on the trail, it actually wasn't too bad. Don't get me wrong. It was difficult, but it was also manageable.

Where the real fun begins! 

Jenn working her way up.

Old Goat Glacier
Pretty flowers
Heading back down towards the avalanche runout.

Looking back we had great views of Spray Lakes Resevoir, and the valley we had just hiked through.  This is probably a more difficult beginning hike, but the views are worth it. (Aren't they always though?).  Going down wasn't as bad as we thought it would be, in spite of the steepness.

View of Spray Lakes Reservoir.

After about 4 hours, we were back in the car and on our way to Canmore to check out Elevation Place. The new rec center is FAB-U-LOUS.  We only climbed, and all the routes were well graded and fun! The staff at the climbing gym are obviously enthusiastic about climbing and their work.  They walked around, talked to people about the routes and gave people beta. Overall, a great day with my new friend Jenn!

Photo credits for this post go to Jenn! Thanks for sharing.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Miniature Canadian Safari and Jumping shots!

Burstall Pass 

July 31st, 2013

This has been on my hiking list for YEARS. I finally got to tick it off!! Expectations were high, and they were definitely met.

On our drive there, we got the Canadian wildlife experience. We saw an elk running along the highway, looking exhausted, and being pursued by two wolves!! It was the first time I had ever seen them in the wild. A few kilometers down, we saw a group of mountain goats with their lambs along the side of the road. Not sure if the wolves caught up to them or not!

In the flood plain

For the first four-ish kilometers of this hike, you walk down an old road. It's pretty boring. Near the end there is a bike rack, so if you a mountain bike, use it!

After that, you reach a wide open flood plain that involves much hopping and jumping over small creeks.  This part of the trail isn't as obvious so look for the hiking signs if you get a little lost. It was probably a little wetter than normal due to the flooding in June. Part of the trail was still sitting under some water. After some more time in the trees, it opens up and you cross a beautiful meadow and start getting some stunning views.

Flooded trail

On our way up to the pass.

On our way up to the pass.

Dave, Kory, me and Michelle on the pass. 
On the pass 
Once we reached the pass, we decided to venture a little bit into Banff, because our views of it were being blocked by two smaller ridges.  While Dave scrambled up another mountain to the south, we headed up to the taller ridge west of the pass.  He is quite the long-legged mountain goat and scrambled his way up to the summit in no time! Meanwhile, we lounged in the alpine meadow and took a few jumping shots.

On top of the ridge in Banff

Looking into Banff. Leman Lake is visible here.

Jumping shots in front of Lehman Lake.  Thanks Google+ for putting this together! Hah!

On our way back through the flood plain.
This is a longer easy hike at 15 km. It's not difficult nor technical, but the distance does make for a long day.  It took us about 5 hours, plus about an hour of lounging and lunching.  It's a beautiful hike, and definitely worth the effort. Another gorgeous day hiking with some great company, topped off with a stop at the Mountain Juice Cafe.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Don't give up. It's worth it.

Helen Lake and Cirque Peak

This is quite possibly one of the most beautiful hikes I have EVER been on.  Aside from the first 45 minutes or so, the views from this hike are constant. You start in the trees, but it quickly opens up into a massive alpine meadow full of flowers and surrounded by mountains and glaciers.  

View from about kilometer 2 of the trail.
Everything opens up at about kilometer three.

Creek Crossing!

View of the Bow Valley towards Lake Louise from the alpine meadows before you reach Helen Lake.

You can reach Helen Lake with minimal effort, but the views get better as you head up to the ridge above the lake. You start to catch glimpses what lies behind and beyond the mountains that surround the valley.   
Helen Lake with Cirque Peak behind it.

On the ridge above Helen Lake.
As you scramble up Cirque Peak, the views get more and more spectacular. Lakes and glaciers that weren't visible before are suddenly within your view. At the summit, you have a 360 degree view of everything, we could see numerous turquoise blue lakes, glaciers and more mountains! 

Part way up Cirque Peak. The ridge and Helen Lake are in the left part of the picture. Massive Bow Lake is in the top right.

Definitely a scramble up Cirque Peak.
Although my guidebook says the hike is moderate, hiking to the summit of Cirque Peak makes for a long day. It's probably on the more difficult end of the 'moderate' scale at 16 kilometers round trip and 1043 meters of elevation gain... 500 of which are in the last kilometer of the hike. There was one point (ok, maybe several points) on the steep, scree covered slope that I wanted to just give up and make my way back down. The rain clouds seemed to have caught up with us by then and I was worried about what the hike down would be like if everything suddenly got wet.  Luckily, someone mentioned the word 'loser', and I continued on.  

Panoramic shot from the summit.

Enjoying the views from the summit.
Group shot!

Going down a hike never seems to be as bad as I think it is, in spite of the steepness, with the exception of Skoki Mountain. Unfortunately, by the end of it, my left knee decided it did not like what I was doing and was throbbing for about the last 6 kilometers of the hike.  This, for the record, is why I hike with poles. My knee would have been worse if I had not brought them along.  
Lesson from this hike: Don't give up! Just keep hiking. It's worth it.