Thursday, 28 January 2016

January 27, 2016
Today we decided to take a drive to Pebble Creek in search of wildlife.  We were told by locals that there was lots of wildlife in the Lamar Valley area.
It was a beautiful sunny day – temperature hovering around minus 2.
We met a friendly local named Ted at one of the road stops and he gave us some tips of where to look as he is a part-time photographer – he works at the Mammoth Springs Hotel.  We found out quickly there are some very serious photographers here and intense wolf chasers.  I guess there are also some groups doing research work on the wolves.  We had seen on the white board sightings of the Lamar Valley Pack and that was what we were hoping to see.   They say this is the Serengeti of North America and I am a believer – I can’t believe how much wildlife we saw in 1 day in under 30km.
In the first part of the drive we were stopped 3 times due to buffalo on the road which we are sort of becoming used to – we saw a few elk, deer and big horn sheep and then I spotted a coyote eating something down by the creek, so we stopped and watched him for a while – there was another coyote a little further out that seemed to be pacing around.
We drove a little further and noticed a few cars stopped at one of the parking areas and noticed the serious photographers were there – not hard to spot them with their large equipment and scopes.  Ted was also there, so we stopped and he pointed out the alpha of the Lamar pack and 2 of the pups from the pack -1 black and 1 grey – they seemed to be closing in on one of the buffalo that appeared to be injured -   we watched them for what must have been at least an hour .  They just seemed to be circling the buffalo and moving back and forth – I noticed the alpha didn’t move much – when he did decide to leave the area one of the pups quickly followed.  The howling that went on after that was unbelievable – it was just so still and quiet and with the echo of the mountains it was just an incredible experience.   
Most of the cars left at this point to try to follow the 2 wolves, but we decided to hang back with Ted and see if the grey one would eventually follow the alpha,  we were both enjoying the howling and sure enough the grey pup headed our way and we were able to grab a few photos of him also.

Bill and I decided that this point we should move ahead with our plan to skin up Specimen’s Ridge and try to get a few little turns in – it was starting to get late in the day at this point.  We both enjoyed our little ski.   We encountered several buffalo off in what I call the comfortable distance, but there was one big guy near the top that kept giving us the eye as we took our skins off to ski down the mountain.

On drive back from Specimen’s Ridge we saw a couple more coyote and a bald eagle. 

What an amazing day!!

Jan 26, 2016
Just deciding where to ski today my mind can’t help but wonder will we meet up with an entire herd of buffalo on the trails?  What does a girl do if a buffalo decides to chase her????
We stopped by the ski shop to ask some questions about the different trails and to pick up some maps.  We decided to ski around one of the mountains via the Bunsen trail which one of the shop guys had recommended as it has many great views. 
You first had to make your way down a closed road for 3-4 km and then everything opened up just before the Bunsen trail head to an area called the Golden Gate – the views were incredible and we were treated to a spectacular blue sky and plenty of sunshine.  The snow conditions were quite good.  There were some pretty big downhills with some downright scary 500 foot cliffs that we were warned about speed and skiing in control.  I still find it completely mind boggling that there is no fence or something to stop a person from going over – I mean it is straight down.  It actually makes my palms sweat just to think about it.
We finished the day by doing a short recommended loop around the Terrace Hot Springs – we saw some more buffalo which were not in the mood to have their photos taken and quickly turned their backsides towards us.  They didn’t respond to Bill’s whistles or hand clapping – thank god – OMG – really Bill??
We did a little shopping at the Mammoth General Store and found a payphone that we were able to call home and check in with Steph as our cell phone is not going to have great coverage while we are in Montana.  Email is good if anyone needs to contact us.
The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is quite grand and has lots of history.  They have 2 incredible formal rooms with large leather chairs and they always have a beautiful fire burning and a great piano player entertaining in the evening.  There are lots of Yellowstone books, maps, puzzles and games out for people to use.

They have a large white board where you are supposed to log all of your animal sightings for the day and the area they were spotted in.  I saw Bill eyeing up the board and I thought I better keep an eye on him because I could tell he was up to no good and sure enough when no one was looking he wrote on the board BIGFOOT. 

January 25, 2016

We arrived in Yellowstone mid-morning.  The drive was great – very good weather . 
We spent the last 2 nights on the road – first night in Lethbridge and second night in Bozeman, Montana.
Yellowstone won me over in a matter of minutes – we pulled into the campground and there were only 2 people camping here.   We got stuck briefly pulling our trailer into the site we had chosen – but we were able to get out quite quickly by chaining up.
We hiked the boardwalk and checked out the Mammoth Hot Spring terraces with their amazing colors, formations and intensity.  


We decided to go for a drive to get our bearings and to find some of the ski trail heads – it was only a matter of minutes from leaving the little town site that we were chased down by a herd of buffalo – which was very cool – this happened twice within about 10 miles.  It was an incredible sight to watch these giant buffalo take off and kick snow into the air.
Next – we asked about being able to get into one of the nearby hot springs at the Visitor Centre and the friendly guy working at the front desk gave us a slip of paper with specific instructions.  He warned us it was not easy to get into the hot springs and we should probably wear something on our feet.  We thanked him and quickly went on our way in search of these hot springs – we had visited many hot springs before – but nothing had prepared us for this adventure –we found the parking lot easy enough – there was a bit of a hike into the hot springs area – so away we went with our bathing suits and towels and  as you can imagine it was tricky to get out of all your winter clothes while standing outside by trying  to wrap your towel around you gracefully as you changed into your suit – the ground was very cold and it didn’t take long for your toes to cramp up, but that was nothing compared to the cold we encountered as we had to wade into the freezing river and try to make our way to the stream of hot water that bubbles up and spills into the river – the rocks were very slippery (hence the advice for something to wear on your feet-which we ignored)  and the water was so cold that you actually felt like it was burning your legs.  When we got to where the hot met up with the cold – your mind couldn’t decide if you wanted to stand in the freezing cold water or the scolding hot water and we kind of did a little dance from one foot to the other until we made our way down the river to find the magical spot where the mixture of hot and cold was just right.  I have to say it was worth all the effort and it was little easier to crab walk out of there.
As we were making our way back to the parking lot we passed several deer – some even pausing for a moment to drink from the river.  I wasn’t ready for the ginormous buffalo that we had to get passed to get back to our van – for some strange reason the only thing I could think about was don’t look it in the eye – how ridiculous is that – I feel as though I am in a strange world –   I feel as though I am in their home and they have just invited us in briefly to share space with them.. it is absolutely incredible.
There are several elk, buffalo and deer just hanging out in our campground – just laying down or grazing.  It gives a girl something to think about while finding her way to the outhouse at night.
I decided at the end of the day that I would really enjoy a hot shower, so we headed up to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and asked at the front desk if I could pay for a shower and the staff was very accommodating and showed us to 2 private showers and only charged us $3.50 each.
If Yellowstone in Winter is not on your bucket list it should be – wow!

*Thank you to Erica & Alex for their thoughtful gift - the National Park Pass – we will put it to good use.   

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

January 23, 2016

Saying Good Bye is never easy –
We loved every minute of our 3 plus weeks with Steph, Lou, Payton and Ethan.  There was never going to be an easy time to leave – Bill and I had discussed a departure date a few times and we just both felt the same way – that we were having such a great time and enjoying so much the magical/fun stage that the kids are at -  and we both realized that the next time we see them this stage will probably be over – not to say the next stage won’t be great also, but what if the next time I see Ethan he doesn’t believe that Auntie Debbie has a magical healing kiss – that he tries to only ask for when he is really hurt….or that Uncle Billy can make anything happen and gives the best good night super tucks ever! 

I guess the most important part is that we have made these memories and we will all have them imprinted in our hearts.
I want to thank Princess Payton and E-Man for helping me find my inner child again – to let loose and be silly and to entertain my creative side and dig into my adult imagination – that still knows how to make believe..

Thank you for:
The free dances & video making, Teds super surprise box seats for Ethan’s first NHL game, for the  artwork that we can’t wait to hang in our house, tickle fights, endless giggles, notes left under our door, coupons for free hugs and kisses that I am using for bookmarks, our fun ski time together, the crazy wave pool & for making me go down the big slide, for the endless parties – even though mom had some explaining to do when questioned by Ethan’s Daycare provider about what was going on at her house, my nightly reading homework time with Payton and finding out I need to brush up on time tables, for teaching Uncle Billy how to play the songs you are learning in piano – even though you didn’t like his flair, for baking with Uncle Billy, for letting us pick you up from school and day-care, for our family movie nights with cuddles and the communal popcorn and chip  bags which are probably  the cause for all of our germ spreading.

I will really miss the nightly super tucks, but if I close my eyes and think about you guys I have lots of fun things to remember… I hope that I have been successful in becoming the kind of Auntie – my Auntie’s were to me and that you will always know how much you are loved.  
As we were walking out the door Payton yelled “one more jam!”  in honor of our favorite group Walk  off the Earth.  I flicked the light switch on & off, Bill played his yogurt container, Steph her plastic muffin container, Ethan banged together 2 empty water jugs and Lou banged the cupboard door open and close and drummed on the counter.

Big thank you to Ted for the incredible surprise of the box seats at the Flames Game & for making Ethan’s wish come true. 
Thank you also for:

The great ski time together and for waiting up for me  – I especially enjoyed the Canmore to Banff trail.

For the sleep overs, shopping dates & meals together. 

For our driving to Nanon to get me, our time alone, talks, giggles, tears and for your healing hugs…
Good luck with your Winter training and maybe we will see you & Chris  at the Oceanside California Ironman. 

The kids were generous enough to offer us their pink hideaway room to stay in.
As most of my friends know I am totally obsessed with doing laundry, so sleeping in the crawl space next to the washer and the dryer was quite comforting to me.

It was nice and warm in our little space and easy for me to fall asleep to the hum of the dryer.

Occasionally we had to dig out costumes from their storage bins for our videos, or decorations for the different parties we had and we even had to  briefly turn the room into a tickle fighting space, but overall it was our little nook to sleep in, read, watch movies in and it fed Auntie Debbie’s obsession of always needing to have laundry on – hope you guys can find all your clothes!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Well we lost a few days...

First Uncle Billy went down - then Steph - then Payton - than me.

I think that means Ethan is the monkey:)

Sure hope we didn't pass it on to you Ted..

Monday, 18 January 2016

Remember when Sundays were family days!
Bill and I talk about this all the time – wouldn’t the world be a better place if everything just shut down every Sunday and you had to dig out your board games, go to the beach with a picnic, walk or bike in the sunshine,  go sliding or skating in the Winter.
It seems like the only time we do this now is over the holidays when stores are closed.
We choose to spend our Sunday inside in our PJs until noon – plotting how we could spend our day!
Ethan and Payton are both extremely creative kids and I knew whatever we planned would be great!
Bill had introduced them earlier in the week to one of his favorite Canadian bands called Walk Off the Earth – we had already spent a few evenings watching videos and free dancing (as the kids call it).
So we decided we would make some of our own videos.  Payton and Ethan took turns being the directors.  We gathered costumes, props, make-up and made some sets!   I couldn’t believe their attention to detail. 
We giggled, danced, watched ourselves at the end of each recording, did some re-takes and literally spent the entire day just playing. 
The simpler things in life can make us so happy when we decide to see them through the eyes of a child!!
I haven’t laughed that hard in a very long time – I enjoyed putting on costumes and letting go of all my adult thoughts and just really living in the moment – it gave me such a deep feeling of happiness and it made me realize - we spend way too much time being serious in our day.

Weekend in Canmore –  January 16 & 17, 2016
We rented 2 rooms in Canmore for the weekend – we stayed at the Ramada because they had a triple water slide – it didn’t take Bill and Steph very long to figure out how they could use the water slide as a luge – by giving a giant push and picking up lots of speed-  they all came spitting out the slide at once and would create a giant tidal wave in the small pool!  You could hear screaming and giggling the entire time they were fighting each other down the slide –  Auntie Deb did not participate, but enjoyed watching them and peoples’ reactions as the water flew out of the pool…
Saturday morning Steph and Lou were able to enjoy a nice morning ski and a little adult time alone – while Bill and I kept Payton and Ethan back at the hotel for some pool play.  

I had read in one of Steph’s trail books that you could ski from Canmore to Banff and decided this was something I really wanted to do, so Bill and I met up with Ted around 1:00 at the trail head in Canmore and skied to Banff.  Ted had already did an hours skate ski and decided he was going to run along with us as we skied -  It took us a little over 2 hours – I worked very hard to keep up to Ironman Ted and speedy Bill on his new skis.  The boys were nice enough to stop every so often and let me catch up.   It was a pretty ski and I enjoyed listening to the river that ran along side the trail –

Steph, Lou and the kids picked us up in Banff.  We snuck into the Banff Springs Hotel to change into some dry clothes – and headed back to Canmore for a nice dinner.  
Sunday morning we got up and hiked into Grassi Lake – nice to visit the site where Steph and Lou got married.   We got to walk around downtown Canmore – stopped for a warm drink and a little shop at Mountain Rocky Soap Company.   

Bill is still under the weather and has a bad cough, so we are going to lay low for a few days before we hit the road again.

Friday January 15, 2016

Had a great afternoon with Ted on Friday  – Bill is a little under the weather – so Ted rescued me – he drove to Nanton to pick me up and we went xc skiing together in Bragg Creek – I enjoyed our alone time – we had a good visit, a few laughs and a few tears – Thank you Ted……I really needed thatJ

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Saturday Ski Day!
It was an early morning start to make it to Castle Mountain for opening time!
We stepped outside to minus 27 temperatures and  as we began our 1.5 hour drive to Castle Mountain.  It was a little bit blustery with wind whipping snow across the single lane highway and darkness was still upon us.    Slowly we watched the sun come up from behind the mountains.   The temperature danced between -27 and -17 as we drove in and out of the little valleys.
It was -5 and sunny by the time we arrived at Castle – perfect temperature for skiing!
The mountain was surrounded by little cabins and a cute trailer park.  Apparently the wait to get a camping spot is 10 years.   I can see why – it is the perfect family ski resort!
It didn’t take the kids long to gear up!  We started with a great little green run and within a few minutes Ethan was showing us how he liked to take jumps and occasionally ski right into the ditch just so he could crash.   He definitely has a love for speed and sometimes skips the whole turning thing as it only slows you down!  Ethan went down some blue runs on the harness with Steph.   I don’t think it will be long and he will be ripping down those runs himself – I say by the end of this ski season for sure.
Payton is a great little skier.  She showed us some great turns and isn’t afraid of speed either.   She is quite comfortable on the blue runs.  She is not using poles yet, but I think she is ready.  She took a few runs using Steph’s poles and liked it.

We had a few short breaks, but stayed right until the last run of the day at 4:00.   We picked up some snacks and coffee for the ride home and away we went!
What a great day!

Enjoyed a nice pasta dinner and a family movie – nighty night!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

When we gave Ethan his Christmas coupon for his day to do whatever he wanted with his Uncle Billy and Auntie Debbie he answered “I would like to go to a Calgary flames hockey game.”   “well” said Uncle Billy “that  might be a little hard for us to do – would you consider a junior Hitman game or going to the climbing wall?”  Ethan had to give that some thought.
When we went to visit Ted we casually mentioned to him Ethan’s wish and Ted said to leave it with him and he might be able to snag a few tickets from work.  We thought no more of it as we were heading off to Waterton for 2 days. 
When we were leaving Waterton I received a text from Ted asking if 6 tickets were enough – I quickly called Steph and asked her if everyone would want to go together and she quickly answered YES!  I couldn’t believe Ted was able to pull this together for Ethan and all of us – how incredibly thoughtful and kind of him.  He is such a sweetieJ

We decided the best thing to do it not tell Ethan and make it a big surprise – so we told Payton as she is not the type of little girl you spring things on, but she is a great little secret keeper.
Bill, Lou and I met Ted early in the day for a beautiful xc ski in Bragg Creek – Thank god Lou used the wrong wax on his skis as Ted and Bill were  flying – Lou and I had a lovely ski and a nice visit – Drizzy was keeping an eye on me also.  Biggie liked to go fast with Ted & Bill. 
The weather was bad, so Lou drove back to Nanton to pick Steph and the kids up.  They drove to Calgary and then took the C train to the arena.  We went back to Ted’s cleaned up and also caught the C train.  The kids beat us there and were watching for our train to arrive.  Ethan still had no idea what was going on and thought we were meeting for dinner.  He kept spotting people in their Calgary Flames jersey’s and saying “mommy there must be a hockey game tonight.”
As we entered the Saddledom Ted asked Ethan “would you rather go for dinner or to a hockey game?” and Ethan answered “I don’t know maybe both?”  Ted went up to the coneserge desk and picked up an envelope of tickets saved under his name and he ripped a ticket out and gave it to Ethan and said “let’s go watch the hockey game” – Ethans  eyes were big and he was looking back and forth from his mom to his dad to Ted trying to piece it all together .  It was priceless -  that wasn’t the end to Ted’s surprises as we all hurried to follow Ted and his long gazelle like  steps – he lead us to a big wood door and right into a box that he had arranged for us to enjoy a very magical night.  There were lots of hugs and high fives passed around.
The fridge was stocked with cold drinks, there were huge bags of popcorn and an entire buffet set up for us.  WOW!!!!  What an experience!
I think the part we all enjoyed the most was watching Ethan line up all his treats and totally lose himself in the game.  Steph leaned over to try to explain to Ethan how we had kept it a secret from him and Ethan put up his hand and said "stop talking mom I am trying to pay attention to everything!"
We cheered hard, danced to the music, tried to win the 50/50 draw so we could bring everyone with us for the rest of our trip and just enjoyed the family time and the incredible experience.
A huge thank you to Ted for always being so thoughtful and for making Ethan’s wish come true………
What a special night for all of us to remember….We Love you Ted.

Jan 5 & 6

Bill and I lucked out and ended up being able to book the ACC hut in Waterton National park.  It sleeps 8 and is pretty much completely booked until April, but somehow we ended up with the cabin all to ourselves.  It took us about 2 hours to drive there from Nanton.  We were familiar with the beauty of the Park as we had spent a few days there on our last tour in 2010.   We stopped at the Park Warden’s office to let them know we arrived and to check the avalanche forecast.  They are always so knowledgeable and friendly. 
They told us about the hut and suggested some good ski routes for us. 
We started our drive to the trail head and spotted a few people ice climbing – we stopped to watch them for a bit – pretty incredible and something we don’t get to see at home.   Bill stopped to take a few photos and as we were walking back to our van we came face to face with 2 big horn sheep – Bill was able to catch a few photos before one ran right by us –
We got to our hut and it was so cute.  It was the old Warden’s office and was built in the 1930’s.  It had the basics -gas lights and a little furnace, so we were able to warm it up nicely.  It was so incredibly dark out there once night fell – the stars were absolutely stunning.  It was quite the feeling knowing you were out there all by yourself – cuddled by mountains.   
Day 1 we went for a ski/hike to Forum lake which was quite the climb – fun skiing out – we were pretty tired by this point and still had to ski back to the van in the dark with our headlamps to get our large packs with our food, sleeping bags & supplies – you know you are exhausted when you take turns counting steps -- we allowed ourselves to break every 200 steps -  
Day 2 we had a great ski to Wall Lake – the conditions were great – lots of fresh snow marked with every kind of animal print and the temperature was perfect.   The sun was peeking through the trees and creating glittery snowfalls – it was so pretty.  As we approached the Lake we were faced with this massive wall of mountain – It had a very powerful presence.   We stopped and had some warm soup and lunch right at the base. 
As we sat and enjoyed the view I couldn’t help but wonder is this what Heaven looks like?      


Wednesday, 6 January 2016

As part of Payton and Ethan's Christmas gift we gave them each coupons that read 1 FREE DAY TO DO ANYTHING YOU WANT - expires act cash value...some restrictions Paty went first and she picked to go to the Southland water park.  We had so much fun in the wave pool - the whistle would blow every 15 minutes and the music would play and we would ride the waves - the kids loved it - and of course they wanted to go down the slides.  Payton let me start on the smaller slides, but she was not letting leave the park until I rode the big blue slide.  We had a ball.
Our plan was to go to Jack Astors for lunch - but Ethan quickly pointed out that Buffalo Wild Wings was way better because you could color on the tables and they give kids tablets and of course they had more sports memorbelia. 
We had an amazing day....
Ethan is contemplating what he is going to use his coupon for.

Monday, 4 January 2016

We had a great visit with Ted & Andrea.  We finally got to meet Drizz and Biggie.
Ted took us ski shopping in Calgary and we did a beautiful night hike with the dogs. 
Thank you for the wonderful dinner and comfy king size bed:) See you later in the week.
I think biggie and Bill got all their issues settled before we left!

Friday, 1 January 2016

We had 4 great days at the Delta Kananaskis Lodge – there is so much for the kids to do here.  It is really great to see all the young families enjoying the outdoors together.
We have done morning crafts, lots of xc skiing together, skating on the pond & sliding which created a few morning aches and pains –   all worth it.
We did some pot luck dinners in the hotel room and even ordered room service one night!
We watched movies together, cuddled and had popcorn parties (poor maid service).
Our last night at the lodge we took the kids out for a night walk with the headlamps on--into the trails to gaze up at the stars.  We laid in the snow and looked up at the sky for the big dipper and Orion’s belt.    We chased our shadows in the snow –   giggled and slept like babies after all that fresh air.