Sunday, September 28, 2014

Visit to the Okanagan

The Okanagan Valley is this beautiful, peaceful region on the Okanagan Lake in British Columbia- it's a fertile agriculture area of fruit orchards, wineries, and u-pick farms. The Okanagan Lake is home to Ogopogo, Canada's Loch Ness monster. This huge sea serpent has allegedly been spotted periodically, since first being seen in the 19th century by First Nations people. 

Here are a couple of representations of Ogopogo (we weren't lucky enough to catch sight of him):

We stayed on the water in the quaint town of Peachland. We found a farmers market and bought delicious peaches. 

Water sporting is a top activity of the Okanagan. This guy (above) was amazing - he looks like a real superhero. 

Where we stayed, there was a path along the lake (above). I adored it - we walked it together, I sat by it to do my morning meditation, and ran alongside it to greet the day.

We visited Kelowna, the largest city in the Okanagan region. Kelowna means "grizzly bear" in the area's First Nations language. Of course, we found a park with a view (above).

We had a picnic in their central city park by the water (above). 

I discovered Old Meadows, an organic farm in town. Their farm market filled me with inspiration. We bought some swiss chard (above) among other produce.

This was my kind of place. I'm realizing I'm not such a city girl anymore. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Most Beautiful Place

Niall and I believe Banff National Park is the most beautiful place we have ever been. We stayed near Lake Louise. I have never seen water so blue.



We took the Lake Agnes Trail – it was an intense hike for us, from Lake Louise up a mountain to get to Lake Agnes.


It was a bit of a rainy day, so I was glad we brought the bag with the ponchos in it.




We passed Mirror Lake (photo below) on the way.

We hiked to an elevation of 7005 feet and found ourselves at Lake Agnes Tea House, the oldest tea house in Canada – it was originally built in 1905 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It’s a family owned tea house, rebuilt in 1981 by Cynthia Magee - her daughter used to have to walk back and forth on the same long, steep trail we took to catch the school bus every day. There is no electricity, the garbage has to be carried down on a regular basis, all the food is made daily, by hand. We shared a small pot of their staff-recommended blend of Rocky Mountain green tea, soothing and rewarding in this quaint, dim log cabin.



We agreed that this would be a memory we would hold in our hearts forever. It’s funny,  because we started out that day full of discontent. We were annoyed with each other in such close quarters, I was feeling slightly ill, and the spitting rain was getting to us. This hike slowly, persistently worked at changing our perspective.
Lake Agnes Lake sits at the foot of the tea house (photo below).




Renewed by our tea, we went further.




Another rainbow (above photo) – number three we have spotted on this trip!



We took our time making our way back to Lake Louise.



There was this busy, rolling stream down the mountain. 


Water from the stream collected in pools and was chalky gray, full of sediment. Then, suddenly, there was Lake Louise, that perpetual blue.





The mood was greatly altered. Sometimes it hits me, how can I be anything but filled with gratitude?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Oh, Canada!

We were both looking forward to getting to Canada and to some urban life. First stop: Calgary.
Of course, we still were drawn to the outdoors. We immediately found a huge park to visit, Nose Hill.
We then explored downtown and the active 17th Ave. area – full of people getting off work, heading to meet friends for a bite to eat or a drink to sip. We went to The Coup (photo below) – this all vegetarian, organic restaurant. It’s an enormous treat to go out to eat these days.
I had a Yerba mate iced tea with local honey and mint and this big bowl of rice noodles, peanut sauce, and broccoli. We then went to the Hop In Brew Pub, so Niall could try a local beer. That was a really sweet place too, it used to be an old house.
I was thrilled when we came across this overflowing bookstore, Fair’s Fair Books.
I bought Natalie Goldberg’s A Long, Quiet Highway. I read it within a few days – couldn’t put it down – it’s about writing and meditation, finding a sense of home, and Goldberg’s relationship with her late, great Zen teacher. I cherish books that make my heart burst and connect so deeply. Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones did the same thing for me.
Prince’s Island Park was one of those wonderful urban parks on the water.
There was a talented violinist playing. His music floated through the air as city-dwellers got their daily exercise, teenagers passed the time teasing each other, and lovers walked hand-in-hand.
We found out about magpies (photo below) in Calgary. They woke us up our first morning with all their yakking on a nearby treetop. We found them beautiful, with their striking black and white feathers and tails that go on forever.
Niall has a great talent and patience for research. He found some neighborhood with the best view of the city. There were lovely houses with big windows that overlooked this cityscape – imagine waking up to this everyday…
More photos from the bridge over Bow River at  the Prince’s Island Park below – simply a perfect city park. Nothing like viewing a city from a park.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dreaming of Glacier

Then, it was onto Glacier National Park in Montana. I had been longing to visit for a few years - ever since a friend told me about an awesome trip she took there as a kid with her family. I fell in love with it immediately.

Let me tell you all about it. 

We took another scenic drive into the park. The Going-to-the-Sun Road winds through mountainsides and has breathtaking viewpoints (see a photo from the drive below).
We saw a mountain goat family in the distance along the way (using a kind stranger's binoculars).  This was at another stopping point - the goats were too far away to get a photograph.

Along the way, we took a short hike through a forest of old western hemlocks and red cedars- the Trail of the Cedars (photos below). There was a beautiful creek and gorge we gazed upon.
Peace washed over the day.

We set up camp next two these three skinny trees.

The next day there was more exploring to be done. We saw a moose and her calf in the trees, munching away.

We saw a black bear and her two cubs.
 We saw a grizzly as well, all from safe distances. We stood in amazement. 

We took some great hikes.

The two photos below are of Wild Goose Island. It is one of the most photographed places in Glacier; I can definitely see why.

This trip is full of pauses, full of wonder.

As we were driving out of the park, this moose bid us farewell.