glacial refreshment

Last week, Nate and I took off in our Subaru for Alberta, Canada. This vacation went through many metamorphoses before it became a  trip to Alberta: first it was supposed to be the redwoods, then Yellowstone & Denver, then we finally arrived on Alberta. And I’m so glad we did!

Our first stop was 2 nights in Calgary with our dear friends Jon & Brittany. Brit, a wonderful old roommate of mine, made the move up north after she and Jon married in October last year, and I miss her so much! Those two are one of the few couples that both Nate and I connect with really, really well. I’d love to say that moving to Canada will fix the distance problem; but, alas, Vancouver and Calgary are still a good 12 hour drive apart.

B & J showed us much of their city, including a trip to the world-famous (?) Calgary Stampede rodeo. We ate hot mini donuts, saw big horses and chuck wagon races (a phenomenon I’ve never seen before, and probably never will again). We even heard the most recent Canadian Idol winner sing! Now I feel like a real Canadian! Earlier that day, the biggest excitement was an out-of-nowhere thunder storm complete with hail the size of golf balls. Let’s just say that Calgary definitely left its dent, at least on our car.

yee-haw!

Nate and I left early the next morning to hike in Banff national park. I was expecting it to be beautiful; I mean, it’s the Canadian rockies, people! But I was not prepared for the glory of this place. We ended up on a 4-night trek into Assiniboine Provincial Park, and through one of the most grizzly-populated areas of North America.

the sign at our trailhead

Although all the literature reminds us of how rare a bear encounter is, one has to think about the possibility. If it weren’t very probable, why all the signs? We both spent a fair amount of our first day nervous and expecting a bear around each corner. We never did see one, but we were quite rain-soaked for the majority of the day. The forecast had predicted this, but also several sunny days to follow, so we endured with the hope this would be the wettest we’d be all week.

Wednesday morning, we awoke to sunshine and packed up for another day of hiking, this time toward our ultimate destination. We passed through a gorgeous valley with peaks on both sides, climbed a low pass, and crossed into the most beautiful basin I have ever seen. I think heaven might look a little like this.

Mt. Assiniboine and his neighbors

With aching feet we set up camp at the edge of a lake. Backpacking in Canada seems to be quite, well, civilized. Each campsite along the way had an area for cooking with wooden benches and a pulley system rigged to make it easy to pull your food out of reach of bears when you leave your site. Assiniboine takes it to the next level, however: the basin is equipped, 16 miles from the nearest road, with a lovely lodge, backpacker huts, a hut for climbers, and outhouses in the camping area. We were hardly roughing it! A helicopter brings in hikers 3 times a week who want to explore the valley but don’t want to make the 32-mile round trip approach. I can definitely imagine Nate and me as an old, wrinkly couple helicoptering in to stay at the lodge. We didn’t see the rooms, but we did go for a beer at the end of our day hike on day three. That’s the best beer I’ve tasted in a long, long time–and at $7 a pop, I would hope so!

cheers!

In all, we hiked somewhere close to 60 km, which is around 38 miles. We finished with sore legs, heel blisters and nasty sunburns on our legs (mine was only above my gaiters and below my shorts, which is a very funny tan line a week later), but contented hearts. Being outdoors with my husband brings us so much closer together. We have to be a team and look to each other’s needs in a more pronounced way than at home. But more than that, we get to enjoy something spectacular together. As we near our one-year-anniversary, I truly feel like our marriage is becoming a beautiful partnership, and I’m so excited to see where life takes us.

One more thing: this trip really helped our imminent move up north sink in a bit, and I’m starting to get really, really excited. Canada is a beautiful country, and we have met so many wonderful people. Here’s to the real adventure, starting 6 weeks from today!

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