Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

Solo Adventure to Nova Scotia

  Pre-trip Decisions

I was supposed to fly into Halifax from Pittsburgh and rent a car to drive around Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. I thought that was adventurous enough for a solo journey.

I had airline tickets and a rental car reserved, but my airline changed my schedule with no comparable flight home. I was secretly happy about that, as I made the mistake of googling “car rental horror stories,” and decided all those things would happen to me if I rented a car.

But, then again, the pessimist in me wondered about driving the whole way from West Virginia. What if I got a flat tire? You have to understand that I always think my tires are low. I have a problem with that. But, I belong to AAA, so I needed to get over that prospect. And then I read about the moose. There are a lot of accidents involving moose in Maine. That would suck.But, then I realized I live in West Virginia, where avoiding deer crossing the road should be an obstacle course race.

But, sometimes the optimist wins and I began planning a road trip. My main destination was Peggy’s Cove, on the east coast of Nova Scotia.

I knew this when I made a reservation at a bed and breakfast near Peggy’s Cove. Since I am a pretend photographer, I hoped to drive to Peggy’s Cove at sunrise and again at sunset, before and after the tour buses and throngs of people come and go. I was staying for four nights and would use the bed and breakfast as my home base while I head to places like Burnt Coat Head and Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main reason I chose the dates I did was to be here during a full moon. At the time, the weather looked good, but you can never depend on weather 7+ days ahead.

You have no idea how long it took me to make a decision on my route to Nova Scotia. Did I really want to have several 10+ hours a day in a car to get to my destination? Did I want to take a 5 1/2 hour ferry across the ocean and Bay of Fundy when I have motion sickness as quick as you can say, “motion sickness.” I was called Pukey Vickie when I was young and got sick on the school bus every day, so why would I do that to myself?

Google maps is such a great tool and I abused the little yellow guy many hours each day. I picked him up and dropped him off on roads left and right. He let me see if there is a cool looking fishing shack by a lake on a particular road. I jotted down cool photo opportunities in my “Nova Scotia” notebook. I know, I’m such a nerd.

I hoped to travel about 11 hours the first day and  try to make it to the Portsmouth, New Hampshire area. I wanted to visit Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddeck the next morning before the crowds arrive. There is also a web cam of the parking lot from the top of the lighthouse.

And from there I  was stumped. Should I continue to drive through Maine, cross the border and head to Saint John, New Brunswick, or do I drive to Portland and catch the ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia?  I posed the question on Trip Advisor and a reader wrote that Route 9 from Bangor to Calais and the border is desolate and traveled by trucks. The statistics for vehicle/animal collisions is high on this road. My little yellow Google guy didn’t show me much in the way of photo ops on this road. I guess there would be one if there was a moose in the road, but did I want to be alone for two hours on a road with not much in between towns? I also have a weak bladder. I know you don’t need to know that, but I stop often at rest stops. I guess that is why the back seat in my car is littered with brochures.

On the other hand, did Pukey Vickie want to spend $306 one way to ride on a catamaran ferry for 5 1/2 hours? I would be stuck if I decided to throw up after three minutes on the ferry. And I’m pretty sure that is going to happen. My subconscious made me laugh one day when I saw that my buggy in Walmart contained the following: Bonine, a Sea-Band wrist thingy, a book called Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a Sudoku puzzle book, and a pack of mechanical pencils. I guess that meant that I was going to reserve the ferry.

With that out of the way, I made reservations  at a cute-looking bed and breakfast about three minutes from the terminal. The CAT ferry was supposed to arrive around 9pm. We will had to set our clocks ahead an hour before we arrived. Little Yellow Google Guy showed me a McDonalds nearby, just in case I am through vomiting (pessimist) and need some late night food in my stomach. I like the thought of arriving late so I won’t have to hop in the car and drive hours to my next destination. I can crash at the bed and breakfast and put my foot on the floor to make the room stop spinning.

What Really Happened

So, I was off. My new Subaru was packed and ready for a long road trip. I was about to find out how long it really was going to take. I wanted to make it to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but didn’t make reservations anywhere just in case there were some time restraints.  I’m glad I didn’t, as it took me 15 hours to get from West Virginia to the border of Maine. I guess the road construction people decided to get work done in every state I drove through. I finally checked in at a Best Western in York, Maine at 7:45 p.m.

This was actually a very convenient place to stay. It was closed to I-95 and very close to the Nubble Lighthouse. I got up early and drove to the Cape Neddeck. I was one of the first in the parking lot and had great views of the lighthouse.

img_4013

I came back and loaded up my car to head to Portland, Maine. The ferry was to leave at 2:30, but I wanted to head to the Portland lighthouse before I got in line for the ferry. I am so glad I took a side trip to see this lighthouse. I could have sat there all day. It was breathtaking.

img_4046a

After walking around, snapping photos and talking to locals who come to paint or just sit and reflect, I found a place for lunch and then headed into Portland to find the ferry terminal. Once there, I checked in at the gate, and sat in line waiting to board the ferry. I was excited for this part of my journey. I got out of my car and talked to others who decided to be early, like myself.

When they opened the gate, we got into our cars to travel up a ramp into the belly of the ferry. This is a huge vessel. As I started my car, my tire light came on.

What? This can’t happen now. I’m in a line with a hundred cars, motorcycles, and motor homes. It did go off after driving about 10 seconds, but that didn’t make it any better. I was sure my tire was going to be flat when we disembarked in Yarmouth. Well, that cranked my anxiety level up a few notches. As soon as we parked, I found the pursor and asked him if one of his crew could check my tire pressure about an hour before we came ashore. He assured me they would take a look at it, which made me feel better…..for the moment.

I really liked the CAT ferry. It had many areas to relax. There were screens playing movies, a bar, and a lot of amenities for a 5 1/2 hour journey across the bay. I just wished I was able to enjoy it. I had my book, a Sudoku puzzle, and people nearby to chat with. I was fine for about an hour. The ferry rocked back and forth, but it didn’t bother me until I went to the bathroom. As I entered a stall and turned around, it hit me. I got quite sick and had to stay in the bathroom for a while. When I finally made it back to my table, I couldn’t move my head left or right. To make matters worse, the movie they were showing on the screen in front of me was about an ocean voyage/storm at sea.

The crew was very helpful. One got me some water. Another told me I should go outside on the back of the ferry. I waddled back and plopped myself in a deck chair. It was chilly and mist was hitting me in the face, but I didn’t care. The air did make me feel better. The captain slowed down the ferry at one point and announced there were many whales off to each side. People were running all over the place to take photos. I didn’t care. I was sick. I actually was mad at people for having a good time while I was green and feeling greener.

It wasn’t until I decided I should eat something that a guy behind a counter said he would make me a concoction. It was a ginger ale and water, which then he microwaved, and told me to drink the whole thing. I did, and felt so much better. By the time we landed and I drove off my tire was not low at all), I was feeling good. I was running late for my bed and breakfast, as I was supposed to be there by 10pm, but also had to find a drive-through restaurant. There’s nothing like McDonald’s when you are sick….I’m serious.

My bed and breakfast, the Lakelawn Motel, was wonderful.

The breakfast in the morning was wonderful. The presentation was great and the food abundant. I checked out and headed to Cape Forchu, home of the Cape Forchu lighthouse.I was excited because it was a little foggy, and I usually have luck taking decent fog photos, but as I continued to drive, it became apparent, this was more than just a little fog.

For those considering the trip to the lighthouse, it is full of photo opportunities along the way. But, as I got closer, the fog became thicker. In the photo below, you would normally see the water and the lighthouse. Bummer.

img_4056

When I arrived at Cape Forchu lighthouse, I was all alone. People probably checked the weather before heading out. I didn’t get a very good photo of the lighthouse…and didn’t crawl up into the huge chair.img_4060

I then drove towards my next night’s lodging, which was White Point Beach Resort. Along the way, I had several stops I wanted to make. Remember, I abused the little yellow google maps guy and made note of places I had to see. The first one was the town of Shelburne. There was a building I wanted to photograph. But, alas, it was the town’s Founders’ Day Celebration, and many roads were blocked and parking was nowhere to be found. So, I took a few photos and went on my way.

img_4086

From Shelburne, I drove south for about 10 minutes to the Sandy Point Lighthouse.

IMG_4092.JPG

I then visited some small coves to photograph fishing shacks and then made my way to the resort. I’m so glad I stayed there. It was wonderful! I made a reservation at their dining room and the food was delicious.

The next morning, after taking a walk along the beach, I checked out and continued on to my next destination, Lunenburg.

Along the way, I stopped at places like Moose Harbor, had lunch in Liverpool (a pirate’s haven back in the day), and Fort Point Lighthouse. I also took a side trip to Port Medway lighthouse and then arrived at my bed and breakfast in Lunenburg.

I checked into the Lunenburg Inn. I would stay there over and over again. It was lovely. I was met with cookies and my room was wonderful. Breakfast was great and I had a nice conversation with several other visitors in the small dining room.

One of the biggest draws besides Lunenburg itself, was a small fishing village of Blue Rocks. I just had to go there.

 

Part 2 coming soon.

 

 

Cicada Love

I am here today to defend the poor cicada. I believe I am the only one on the planet who appreciates their dogged determination to live 17 years underground, emerge to have sex, and then lay eggs for the next generation. I find them fascinating and don’t think they are “gross,” the adjective I’ve been hearing a lot to describe them. They aren’t gross at all. They are harmless. Did you know they have five eyes? That right there makes them quite special, I would think.

But, no. My facebook friends, in general, do not share my love of these winged monkeys. I don’t know why. You can pick them up and pet them. This little guy in the photo below hopped onto my leg, wanting to be picked up. You can’t have too many friends, even if they only live about 6 weeks.

cicada1

When I was young, everyone called them “locusts.” I believe they were even called locust the last time they emerged in 1999. “The year of the locust.”  But, just to be straight, cicada is a member of the cricket family, where locust is a member of the grasshopper family.  Regardless, people aren’t afraid of crickets, so why should they be afraid of cicadas?  Could it be their red eyes?  One facebook friend said they were creepy looking.

Brood V made their appearance last week and I couldn’t wait to find one. Finally, one morning, I watched their arrival. They crawled out of the little lair and climbed up the tree from whence they fell 17 years before. They then struggled to get out of their bug shell, and once they did, clung to the tree bark for a few days to get ready to test their wings.

I had to laugh at a poster who took a picture of a cicada that just emerged and wrote, “omg, an albino cicada.” You have a lot to learn, Grasshopper. Cicadas all look like the photo below after emerging from their shell.

cicada3

Today was the first day I heard their chorus. It was loud, and sounded as if there was a spaceship hovering above the ground a la the movie “Day the Earth Stood Still.” It made me smile. I like the sound. It’s like the sound of spring peepers, but not really.

So, imagine my surprise (not really) when friends began posting on my facebook page  links to sites where people are making cookies out of the little fellows to sell at local Memorial Day festivals. What the hell, bakery guy?

Cicada abuse.

 

In the end, I hope all of you will step out of your comfort zone and approach a cicada and wish him well. He is only here for 5-6 weeks. He won’t bite you . All he wants to do is fly around, sing, and have sex.

And what’s wrong with that?

Bluey

We have been having quite the winter here in north central West Virginia.  Right now the wind chill is -15 and I have to go to Walmart. I hate the cold….and I hate Walmart, so I’m not looking forward to venturing out in this Siberian express of a mess. It just takes me back to when I was a child.

I might as well just get to the point. The neighborhood kids called me Bluey.  Oh, not all the kids, just the older boys who went sled riding down our backyard hill without permission. We lived in a subdivision on a corner lot with a decent hill with a nice bump in the middle which could make your sled jump in the air. It was hard to keep the neighborhood thugs away. And I call them thugs because they called me Bluey. 

You have to understand I looked like a poster child for anorexia, except for the fact  I really did eat. I loved homemade bread and ketchup sandwiches. Of course that has nothing to do why I was called Bluey, but everything to do with the fact I probably did just enough to keep a bird alive. I had to hear that idiom all the time.

“She is so skinny.  I bet she doesn’t eat enough to keep a bird alive.” I have yet to see a starving bird sitting on a sidewalk… Will fly for food.

So, yeah, I was quite skinny and my lips would turn blue when I got cold. My fingernails would also turn blue, but they were usually hidden under my mittens I was wearing at the time. I had mittens with the long connecting string that my mom would weave through the sleeves of my coat so I wouldn’t lose them. Of course, I did lose them at times, which even I have no idea how I accomplished that feat.

So, my mom would bundle us up while smoking a Salem cigarette in one hand until she had to zipper our coats, and that’s when she would put the cigarette in her mouth and try to talk out of  the corner of her mouth at the same time.

“Vickie, quit squirming.”

I was squirming because the smoke from the Salem cigarette was entering my nose and heading down to visit my weak, naive lungs. Well, I also didn’t want to go outside…… I really didn’t want to go outside.

But, it was a chance for my mom to sit at the table, drinking her Maxwell House coffee and smoking her beloved Salem cigarettes in peace as she had one child who was nicknamed Cricket  because she was so hyperactive, (and sometimes nicknamed Bluey by neighborhood thugs) and another child who could move objects with her mind in the middle of  a multitude of daily temper tantrums. The only normal child, my brother, couldn’t wait to get outside and sled ride all day long.  I can’t even tell you how many times he walked back up that hill after flying through the air down the hill. No, I can’t even tell you because I didn’t stay out there long enough to count past 3.

Yes, Bluey  here had a self- imposed time limit of outdoor winter fun: approximately 15 minutes or the time it takes to roll the bottom layer of a snowman. I never got to put a damn carrot into a snowman’s head. I always asked for a carrot, but would usually pass it to my sister or my friends who came up the street to play with me. They knew the routine all to well. Plus, I also had to pee as soon as I put on my snow suit.

And what really sucked is the fact that my mom,  now calm after being separated from a hyper Mexican jumping bean and a destructive screaming meemie for a little bit, would make us hot chocolate when we came in. I hated hot chocolate. I hated chocolate milk. She knew this.

“Vickie, don’t wrinkle up your nose, it will stick like that one day.”  (I’m 58 and it hasn’t stuck yet, Mom.)

“Vickie, just try the hot chocolate. It will warm you up.”   Uh, I don’t see that happening……See, this is why I was hyperactive. My mom was constantly enabling my active nature with more sugar.

So, I would just grab a handful of those little tiny marshmallows that for some reason are put in a cup of hot chocolate like a garnish, I guess. I never did understand how the hell hot chocolate and marshmallows went together. Does it remind people of tiny snowman parts floating in a hot chocolate bath? I didn’t get it.

In the end, I guess some people just love the snow and cold and learn how to ski and snow board and become  outdoor winter enthusiasts for the rest of their lives. I ain’t one of those people. I apologize for using bad grammar, but it seemed appropriate as I was writing.  I ain’t one of those people.

If I were smart, which apparently, I am not, I would own one of those fancy remote starters so I could start my car from the school building I teach in.  I am also not smart enough to own a scraper/brush and I have to use my $.99 Walmart gloves to wipe the snow off of my windows.  I don’t buy expensive gloves because, like sock monsters, there is something stealing just one of my gloves on all occasions. I need connecting mittens. I  also wish I could hire one of the kids who wait for the last bus to scrape my windows, but I am sure there are child labor laws for that kind of thing.

So, sitting here today, under a quilt and wearing a sweater on top of a sweater, I notice my fingernails are a little blue. Ok, that’s a lie. I have the heat cranked up to 72 degrees. My townhouse is three levels and my living room is directly above the garage, and seeing that heat rises, it is a sauna on the bedroom floor, and chilly on the living room level.  It’s cold.

So, this Bluey has decided to let the mail pile up for a few days. I will open the sliding door to my deck in order to fling bread out to the waiting crows, but that’s about it. We are under a winter storm warning tomorrow with a forecast of 5-8 inches of snow headed this way. You won’t see me heading to Snowshoe with skis strapped on the top of my car. No sir re Bob.

I hate the cold.

I hate snow.

And I still hate those thugs who called me Bluey……  I can hold a grudge.

snowman

 

I may not like to build snowmen, but I pass judgement on them. This guy has no nose. This kid gets a B-.

IMG_3943

This is about what my snowmen looked like, minus the head.

 

 

West Virginia Day Tripper

I’ve started a new blog about my jaunts around the mountain state for those who enjoy armchair traveling. I thought I would keep it separate from my blogs here.  I have a lot of  photos of my travels and plan on doing more, so I thought it would be good to house them all in one place. I hope you will visit  West Virginia Day Tripper. Thanks!

IMG_2473

West Virginia Barns

As you can tell by my lack of  blog posts lately, I have become preoccupied with photography. I should be working on my third book or writing here more often, but it seems to have taken a back seat to what has become my passion: pretending to be a photographer.

My father was a photographer when he wasn’t working as owner and broker of his real estate company. He used a press camera which I wish to God I had in my possession. He loved taking pictures and vacationing through West Virginia meant getting out of the station wagon at each hairpin turn so he could get a photo of the “beautiful view.” There were at least 150 “beautiful views” per vacation. I didn’t mind because I was little and a ham for the camera. He has since passed, but I honestly feel him beside me when I frame a shot.

I love photography more than writing.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy receiving a royalty check each month from Amazon for my 2 ebooks.  It’s not much, but it still pays a bill or two, so that is nice. But, I’ve decided to concentrate on writing after I retire in a few years. My summer writing time has been replaced by day tripping and photography.

When you focus your camera, it is interesting to find out what your interests are. I had no idea when I started taking pictures that my eye would find old barns appealing. Old stuff. Maybe that’s why I like to haunt antique shops.

But, I credit my love of old barns to my grandfather.  He didn’t actually live on a farm, but purchased one to house his prized palomino horses. He named it Cherry Farm and I loved going there.  I believe he rented the house  to a family who took care of the horses. There was an old barn full of pigs. And I was sold. A couple of years later that barn and the pigs inside burned to the ground, but my love of barns lived on.

So, the first time I decided to take a drive, I was surprised what caught my eye. I seem to like old bridges, barns, and abandoned buildings. Who knew I would take back roads in hope of finding a wonderful farm to photograph. Here are just a few of the barns I have photographed in the past few weeks.

IMG_4241

Old Route 250 on the Marion/Taylor County line. It’s a goat farm and I love driving by it.

IMG_4274

Dean Drive. This is on the road behind my former home. I’ve driven by it hundreds of times…funny how it is now a

focus.IMG_2972Near Seneca Rocks, WV

The rest are from my little jaunt yesterday.

IMG_4388

IMG_4392a

I took about ten photos of this “truck graveyard.” Of course, that’s not really what it is.

IMG_4397

Near Watter Smith State Park

Near Watter Smith State Park

IMG_4407

IMG_4413

IMG_4415a

IMG_4418

IMG_4420

IMG_4423

IMG_4426a

IMG_4427

IMG_4432

IMG_4433

IMG_4439

Had to put the dead tree in this shot.

IMG_4441

This is the best I could do. It was on a winding road with no place to pull off. I rolled down my window, and aimed.

This is what happens when we finally get a break from the snow and the sun is shining on a Saturday afternoon. For those readers who are barn lovers, I drove from Fairmont south on I-79 and took the Lost Creek Exit. I drove on Route 270 from Lost Creek to West Milford and took Duck Creek Road (love the name) to Watters Smith State Park, which was CLOSED…bummer. I doubled back to get some photos I missed on the way and then took I-79 to the Jane Lew Exit in Lewis County and took Route 19 to Clarksburg. I had never been on either road before, so I had fun.

When I was young I told my grandma I had been on every road in West Virginia. She laughed at me and I got mad at her. In my defense, it seemed like I had. My dad couldn’t be away from his real estate business for too long (although I know now he really didn’t want to be in the car with my mom for very long), so our vacations were traveling around West Virginia.

I still love traveling around this state. The barns are becoming old and decrepit. Pretty soon a  new Walmart  or housing development will spring up on old farmland and  yet another barn will be just a memory. I hope to photograph a lot of them before time, or perhaps another derecho takes one down.

Blackwater Falls

I am ready to move to a warmer climate. I am tired of snow, spinning tires, and 2 hour school delays. But, despite this long snap of frigid weather and mounting snow drifts, I still find inspiration to get in my car and snap some photos. It would be much easier to snap pictures during the other three seasons, when I actually want to get out of my car for different angles, but right now I am basically a “shoot from the car window”  kind of pretend photographer.

When my son was in for Christmas, we decided to drive to Blackwater Falls right after a frigid couple of days. We wanted to see if the falls were frozen. What was I thinking?

IMG_3888

We stopped to take photos of this lovely old house.

Blackwater State Park is located in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, West Virginia near the town of Davis. The park is about 1 1/2 hours away from my home.  It is named for the cascading falls of the Blackwater River, whose amber-colored waters plunge 62 feet and then tumble through the Blackwater Canyon, which is roughly an eight mile long gorge. The so-called “black” water is from tannic acid from the nearby fallen hemlock along with red spruce needles.

According to wvencyclopedia.org

“The river enters Blackwater Falls State Park at an elevation of 3,040 feet. For the next 2.2 miles it is a wild river, dropping 57 feet at the main falls and then descending another 560 feet, before leaving the park. The river, geologically young, has carved the spectacular, deep, and almost vertical walls of Blackwater Canyon, which cuts through the surrounding plateau. Blackwater Lodge opened in 1956 on the south rim of the canyon, and a 65-site campground was opened in 1961. The state park, consisting of 1,688 acres, was established in 1937.”

I have never been to the falls in the winter. Summer is a beautiful time to visit the whole area, but we wanted to see what it looked like after a few days of frigid temperatures. I was not too smart and wore tennis shoes and my gloves might as well have been made of thin cotton. But, I had my camera and it was great having my son along with me.

We arrived at the falls parking lot and were surprised to see so many cars. I thought we would be all alone, seeing that it was so cold. I noticed license plates from Virginia, New York, Delaware, and Ohio among the many from West Virginia.

IMG_3900

Did I mention there were 214 steps to get down to the falls? I hadn’t been there in years and hoped the slipping and sliding would be worth it.

IMG_3905

 

It was a beautiful walk and I was so happy the wind was calm. I am not a fan of cold, but I trudged on, hoping the falls would not disappoint.

They didn’t There were parts that were frozen, but a majority of the falls were plunging, business as usual. I was taken back by the surrounding beauty. This was a winter wonderland, no doubt about it.

blackwaterfalls1

IMG_3912

 

Trees in the canyon below showed the beauty of winter.

IMG_3914

 

My son is a great photographer. His photos look a lot better than mine.

IMG_3917

IMG_3918

 

Blackwater Falls, one of the most photographed areas in the state.

IMG_3921

IMG_3922

IMG_3923

IMG_3926

IMG_3938

IMG_3939

So, if you go down, you must go back up. In all honesty, the stairs that snaked their way down to the falls had many platforms along the wall. There were benches and different viewing areas for those who did not want to take the whole journey. It was not bad, and I am a complainer.

IMG_3943

 

My son was able to make this snowman while he waited for me at the top of the stairs..just kidding. I did fine. But, we felt we deserved a break, so we stopped at the Mountain State Brewing Co. for a beer.

 

IMG_3945All in all, I was glad we ventured into the mountains to visit Blackwater Falls. The best part, though, was spending the day with my son.

 

Etched in Tree

When my daughter graduated from NYU in May, I was hoping to squeeze in a visit to Central Park after all the activities.  We did and as usual, it didn’t disappoint. Spring had sprung and people, wildlife, and flowers were all around us.  I took pictures of turtles,

IMG_1130

my daughter watching ducks

IMG_1138

and just took in the beauty of the park.

IMG_1143

IMG_1147

I then walked by and noticed a beautiful tree littered with initials carved into its base. I kept walking, but then smiled and turned around. It needed to have its picture taken and I immediately thought “blog post idea.” I’m just now getting around to writing about the  tree with the initial tattoo (ala The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

IMG_1146

This tree had initials carved on it on all sides. I am terrible at estimating how old the tree is, but I am sure many of the initials were from long ago. I thought about the people who carved the initials. Long ago men carried pocket knifes. I don’t know if this is still the case, but I imagined people strolling along the path in the park, holding hands when they decide to mark that specific moment in time by carving their symbolic love in the tree, a permanent reminder of their love.

This custom has been around for centuries. I know one instance of tree carving, but decided to google and see what else came up on the subject.

Well, I’ll be damned. There is even a name for tree carving: arborglyphs.

The lifespan of an arborglyph ( I feel smart writing that) is of course limited to that of the tree. If a tree in the forest dies, so does its etchings…eventually. So, archeologists are confined to perhaps a few hundred years with the tree carvings, unlike petroglyphs, which may date back thousands of years.

Too bad trees don’t last forever. What a story that could be told!

Which brings me to a lesson I teach every year about the lost colony of Roanoke and a famous tree carving.

 

On May 8, 1587, a group of 117 men, women and children left England to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.  The colonist,s under the command of John White, headed for a destination on the Chesapeake Bay, but landed further south.

This colony on Roanoke Island was the first English settlement in the New World.  White, then governor of the colony–left the settlement and returned to England to get more supplies. Because of England’s war with Spain, there were no ships to spare. Three years passed before John White could return to Roanoke Island with the supplies. When he finally returned to the colony in 1590, he found the island deserted. The only trace left by the colonists was a mysterious ‘cro‘ carved in a tree, and ‘croatoan‘ carved in a fence post. Croatoan was the name of the nearby island and a local tribe of Native Americans.

It is possible that some of the survivors of the Lost Colony of Roanoke may have joined the Croatans. Roanoke Island was not originally the planned location for the colony and the idea of moving elsewhere had been discussed.

In this case of tree carving, it was done for the purpose of relaying a message. There was no heart with an arrow through this one. But, in the end, it was etched in a tree and made the fourth grade history book ever since.

So, the next time you want to  show your love by etching the big plus symbol between your name and the one you love, remember that  announcement  will  last a couple of hundred years.

So, be sure of it.

Canadian Rockies: Day 6, 7: Lake Louise and Calgary

The bear jam broke up after a truck pulled up and two people from I assume Banff National Park walked towards the bear. I decided this might be a good time to walk away. The bear took off up the path and into the woods. This was a highlight of my trip to Lake Louise and I just got to the place.

I was hungry, but I wanted to walk on the path around most of the lake. I found this guy first. I have no idea why I take a picture of it wherever I go. I must just be a weird individual. The lake is absolutely beautiful right now in the evening, and you will see how different the photos look from evening to morning. I plan to wake up early for sunrise. We will see how well that works out…zzzzzzzz

IMG_2009

I love taking pictures of the canoes on the water. I actually zoomed in on this. The lake is huge and the canoes are just tiny specks across the way.

IMG_2010

IMG_2013

IMG_2024

IMG_2025

IMG_2030

I took a gazillion pictures. Seriously.

IMG_2028

IMG_2042

IMG_2048

IMG_2050I have absolutely no idea what kind of birds these are..They are noisy and are hyperactive.

IMG_2060

IMG_2063

There was one shot I was hoping to get while I was at Lake Louise. I was hungry, but was willing to wait a bit to get it.

IMG_2065

Maybe I will wait for this boat. It’s close.

IMG_2075

Not there

IMG_2076Almost but not really. I think I will go inside and get something to eat.

IMG_2077

Looks they are calling it a day too. I was wanting to get a shot of a canoe near the center without another one around…wishful thinking. I’m hungry, but stopped to take a few more pictures. I hope to come back outside for a bit after dinner.

IMG_2078

I ran into my first unfriendly person. She was leaning against this wall in front of the sign. When I asked if I could get a picture, she sighed, picked up her bags and moved over about a foot.That’s why the sign isn’t framed nicely.  Gee thanks, German lady.

But, when I turned around and saw this beautiful sight, I forgot all about rude people and took another picture.

IMG_2079

And then ran into this little guy.

IMG_2085

I took his picture, told him how pretty he was, and then walked towards the steps, and looked around one more time, and noticed the little guy was  following me. He stopped in his tracks when he saw I turned around.

IMG_2086

IMG_2093

I decided to eat at the Glacier Saloon. Chateau Lake Louise has several restaurants, but this menu was right up my alley. I ordered a hickory smoked Chicken club….smoked chicken breast, crisp prosciutto, provolone, tomato, lettuce, avocado mousse on a ciabatta bun and a side order of fries. It was absolutely delicious. I think the avocado mousse in the mix was what made it so tasty.

After dinner, I went back outside. I have to leave at 8:15 in the morning, so I wanted to spend as much time outside as I could.

IMG_2095

I took a picture of the glacier, and then……

IMG_2096

Yay…close enough

IMG_2097

The runner-up..lol… my day of pretending to be a photographer is drawing to a close. It was fun framing shots and seeing how each one is different.

IMG_2098

IMG_2099

IMG_2101

IMG_2051

The little guy needs a hat or scarf…

IMG_2104

IMG_2109

IMG_2113

IMG_2117I’m back in my room now after taking many photos after dinner and can’t wait to wake up early to get morning photos on the water. It will make a big difference as you will be able to see. Since it is already 9pm, I decide not to get online since it is not complimentary.

Morning!!

IMG_2120

I need to get outside. There are two men standing by their tripods ready for the reflection pictures that make this lake even more beautiful. I’m glad I got up early and am ready to go. But, wait….

IMG_2127Is that a beaver in the same place where the grizzly was yesterday? Stay there, beaver thingy, I’m going to walk like I’m on fire again….down the hall, into the elevator, down 5 floors, out the door, down into the veranda, turn a right on the path and I can see it scurrying away. Darn.

IMG_2132

Ah, come on! Turn around! He was gone. But, I was outside and ready to take some pretty pictures.

IMG_2133

IMG_2134That rounded bank of windows is my room..front part and one window on the side….I was a lucky girl.

IMG_2136My favorite photo of the whole trip!

IMG_2143It’s not even funny how many pictures I took this morning.

IMG_2146

Another shot with some rocks in the front.

IMG_2140

Trees and rocks added

IMG_2148

IMG_2149

Goodbye Moon, I need to go inside, check-out, and wait for my 8:15 transfer to Calgary Airport

IMG_2150

After I checked-out, I decided I better grab something to eat. So I headed to the deli. I hadn’t been down this hall before.

IMG_2151

Hi dead elk on a wall

Hi dead elk on a wall

My 8:15 transfer with Brewster arrived right on time. We traveled to Banff where we had to change buses, and then it was off to the Calgary airport. We are lucky the roads are now open after the flooding in Canmore and Calgary. We could see the devastation as we traveled.

 

On my way to Calgary. Just a few more photos.

IMG_2162

 

IMG_2165

 

 

IMG_2174

This adventure has truly been a trip of a lifetime. Canada is just beautiful, and the Canadian Rockies are majestic and just really moved me. I have never seen such a beautiful place in all my life. The Icefields Parkway is something everyone should witness, with stunning vistas at each turn. The Rocky Mountaineer and its goldleaf service was a dream. I’ve always wanted to travel through the Canadian Rockies on a train, and the trip was everything I could hope for and more. Vancouver was a beautiful city and its famous Stanley Park rivaled (but I still prefer) Central Park in New York City.

I  am all about wildlife and have seen a marmot, 20+eagles, numerous ospreys and blue herons, a moose, 3 bear and a grizzly, 2 elk, one with gigantic antlers, many deer (which should be West Virginia’s state animal because they are everywhere), 2 coyotes, numerous mantled squirrels, chipmunks, ravens, and the list can go on and on. I can’t believe I was close to a grizzly.

Bravo, British Columbia, and Alberta, Canada!  Thank you, Fresh Tracks Canada, for creating a wonderful vacation for me. I will call you again for my next Canadian adventure.

Oh, yes, I will be back.

Canadian Rockies, Day 6, Part 2: Lake Louise and a Bear

Even though I got to see Lake Louise yesterday on the Icefields Parkway tour, I deliberately stayed to the left by the boat house during our short stop. I didn’t want to go inside or even see the front of the hotel and veranda. I wanted to be surprised.

Our Sun Dog tour guide dropped us off and I stood in a short line in the immense lobby.

IMG_1980

My room wasn’t ready yet, as it was only 3:30 and check-in time was at 4:00. No problem, I will just sit down on a chair and take some pictures. I looked up at the enormous chandelier. Some women were looking at me. Well, not really.

IMG_1981

 

 

IMG_1982

I didn’t want to lug my bags around or leave them behind the desk, so I continued to scope out the lobby area from my seat. Out of nowhere , a white labrador retriever walked slowly right by me, just taking its good old time. I then saw a dog bed and a dog food bowl near a pillar with a picture of the dog and an explanation. I wanted to get a picture of the dog on his bed, because a picture of an empty dog bed just didn’t cut it, but he never sauntered back my way. I found out later the dog is the official mascot at this pet friendly resort. If you can’t bring your own dog, he is here to welcome you. I found a short video from 2010

I had a great people watching spot and honestly, the 30 minute wait went by quickly. I got back into the short line and got my room key and I was on my way. I was in room 501. I had to walk a far distance down from the elevator. I loved it though, because it reminded me of a scene from the Jack Nicholson movie, The Shining.

redrum

redrum

When I opened up the door, I immediately saw two suitcases by the door. Uh oh.This can’t be good. I walked all the way back down the hall until I found two maids cleaning a room. They were so very friendly and called for a manager to come up immediately. They brought out a chair from the room they were cleaning so I would be more comfortable. I sort of smiled to myself, because this was the first bump on my previously unblemished trip.

The manager appeared in a few minutes and immediately looked up the information. In the meantime, she asked if there was anything I would like to drink while I waited, and she called down for a coke to be brought to my room. She  then looked at her papers and informed me that was indeed my room. The luggage must have been part of a tour group that had not arrived as of yet and was put in the wrong room. She took the bags out of the room, and I entered. This was taken care of in less than 5 minutes. Not much of a blemish. I put my stuff down and looked about the room. There were so many windows. I was at the end of the building. No wonder it was a long walk down the wing of the building. I had so many windows.

Room 501

Room 501

Here was my view from my room:

IMG_1983

Room service brought up my coke and I then looked to the left. Another great view.

IMG_1984

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I looked out the right side of the room, which was right beside a field and the tree line. What the hell?

IMG_1988

Seriously? Was this a grizzly bear in the side yard?

It was. Whaaat? This is crazy.

IMG_1987

Can this trip get any better? I grabbed my room key and my purse and walked like I was on fire down the hall, into the elevator, down 5 floors, out the door, stopped to take this picture of the veranda-

IMG_1991

I don’t know why I stopped to take this picture. After all, on was on fire, right? I hurriedly made a right on the path and noticed he was still in the field. He had walked over a bit and now had an audience. Please forget me with the amount of bear shots I am going to post, but I was excited to see a grizzly bear.

This was my favorite photo of him.

IMG_1992

IMG_1993 Watch out, orange shirted tourist! Ok, just kidding. He wasn’t close to the bear.

 

IMG_1996

 The management was right on top of things and didn’t let us too close. I had a contingency attack plan. See those two little girls in front of me?  Just kidding….maybe, I mean, you just never know what would happen if a bear came after you.

IMG_1997

IMG_1998

IMG_1999

IMG_2002

IMG_2006

IMG_2003

Canadian Rockies Trip, Day 6: Banff Gondola, Upper Springs, Moraine Lake

I woke up very early because I had to jam a visit to the top of Sulphur Mountain via the Banff gondola before check-out time. There was much to see and do before my transfer to Lake Louise after lunch. So, I took a shower and off I went after another enjoyable breakfast at the Rimrock. I had a voucher, courtesy of Fresh Tracks Canada.

Sulphur Mountain is basically right up the road from the Rimrock Resort.  I could either wait for the ROAM bus, which would be free, courtesy of the Rimrock, or I could walk. All I knew is that I had to get to the top of Sulphur Mountain because I had heard the view from the top was absolutely stunning.  Everything I had seen thus far has been stunning. Actually, I have run out of adjectives. I am in awe.  I had my camera and off I went.

It was a quick walk to the gondola, only about 5 minutes.

IMG_1862

The views were amazing just on this short walk.

IMG_1863

Since I was early, there was a short line. A tour group from China was in front of me, but the gondolas came and went quickly.  I gave the person at the window my voucher and received my ticket. If you take the Banff Gondola, make sure you keep your ticket, as there is a charge to go up and a charge to go down. If you buy the combined ticket, keep it. A lot of people  who visit hike to the top and then purchase a ticket to go down.

The gondola, a four passenger cabin, is tiny, and rocks a bit while going up Sulphur Mountain. It is an 8 minute ride up the mountain in the cable car to the summit of Sulphur Mountain….2,292 ft. almost perpendcular.  On top, at the Summit Upper Terminal, I was standing at an elevation of 7,486 feet. I’m quite sure I have never been to a higher elevation. The highest mountain in West Virginia is Spruce Knob, which is 4,863 feet in elevation, also the highest in the Allegheny Mountains. But, this view is to die for. Every which way I turned, I found a majestic mountain view. Do I really have to leave here today?

IMG_1864

IMG_1946

One gets a bird’s eye view of six mountain ranges. We could see Cascade and Tunnel Mountains, plus the whole town of Banff. Tunnel Mountain was first called, “Sleeping Buffalo” because, well, it looked like a sleeping buffalo from the north. As for Tunnel Mountain, it’s a great name considering there is no tunnel through the mountain. There were plans years ago to put the railroad through the mountain, but it was not cost efficient.

View from the gondola

View from the gondola

Up at the summit, the visitor’s centre contains restaurants, gift shops, and an observatory up at the top for the best view. I could see the Banff Summit Walk, which must have taken forever to complete the decking. I could see a small buiding on top of the next mountain, Sanson Peak.

IMG_1873

There are two research facilities up on the top of the mountain. The Banff SummitWalk  leads to the Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site of Canada, and the Sanson’s Peak Meterological Station. In 1903, a meteorological observatory building was completed atop Sanson Peak. The stone building is still there and since I am a weather dork, I wanted to peek inside. First, though, I wanted to get a better look. I didn’t have a lot of time and had no idea how long the hike would take over to Sanson Peak.

IMG_1872

I don’t know about this. I looked at the walkway and walked down a lot of steps. There were benches at each landing. It looks like this is an interpretive trail, as I am reading markers full of information at each landing.

IMG_1901

I decided that I just didn’t have enough time to hike over and up, so I concentrated on getting my pictures of the view from where I was standing.

IMG_1875

I zoomed in on the Banff Springs Hotel, a beautiful building. I was supposed to stay here, but changed my plans for the Rimrock due to its proximity to the gondola and hot springs, which I plan to visit after descending this mountain.

IMG_1912

I headed inside and climbed the stairs to the Observatory deck. The views were even more impressive.

IMG_1884

IMG_1895

To see the view from the top, check out the Banff National Park webcam

IMG_1907

IMG_1909

Town of Banff

Town of Banff

There is an interactive giant compass located at the top of the Upper Summit Terminal. I enjoyed taking a picture of this compass. You are able to find out the distance and direction to your home and other cities around the world.

This is for my daughter, who lives in NYC

This is for my daughter, who lives in NYC

IMG_1938

Is that West Virginia? :)

Is that West Virginia? 🙂

Since I wanted to visit one more place before I left Banff, I got back in the short line for my trip down Sulphur Mountain. I tried to take a picture of the Rimrock, but it was a bit blurry because the darn tiny bucket of a gondola was swinging just a bit.

IMG_1942

Once off the gondola, I started the short hike over to Banff Upper Hot Springs.

IMG_1949

IMG_1950

It really didn’t take too long to get there from the Banff Gondola. I would say it was a 5 minute walk, maybe shorter. I tend to stroll when I like the surroundings and there’s a nice shade along the path. Since it was morning, it was crisp and just a really nice leisurely walk to the hot springs. You do go through a small section of a parking lot before you reach this sign.

IMG_1952

IMG_1953

The mountain was named in 1916 for the hot springs found in the area. I walked over to the water coming out of the mountain in the picture above and immediately smelled sulphur, hence the name, Sulphur Mountain. Banff Upper Springs opens early and closes around 11pm, so if you have time to soak your weary bones, the time frame is wide open to you.

The water temperature is kept between 37 and 40 degrees Celsius or in my world, 98 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit

The hot springs in Banff National Park are what made Banff so famous in the first place. It is the reason the Banff Springs Hotel was built. At first, there was a railroad that was built right to the hotel for guests who wanted to visit the warming powers of the hot springs.  Guests came here for the medicinal waters and would take a dip year round as had an ideal temperature for soaking throughout the seasons. They are the highest springs in Canada.

IMG_1954

IMG_1958

After taking a few pictures of the springs, I noticed the hotel was directly across the road. I could see it through the trees. So, I saw a long wooden ramp and thought I would try to take it to see if it leads down to the main road. There weren’t any signs, but I knew it was there for a reason. I was right. It took me to the bus stop and all I had to do was walk across the street.

Speaking of the bus, Banff became the first municipality in all of Canada to use an all-hybird electric transit bus. All four of the buses have wildlife imagery all the way around it, with pictures of grizzlies, wolves, elk, goats, fox, deer and moose looking at me as the buses pass by. It’s a convenient schedule and I never had to wait for more than 5 minutes until the next Roam bus appeared. Maybe I just have great timing.

I went to my room and packed. Check-out time is 12 noon, which is great for me. Sun Dog Tours will be picking me up for a transfer tour to Lake Louise at 1:30. I will have time to hang out in the lobby and write.

IMG_1961

I found the perfect spot by an open door leading to a terrace. The fresh mountain air combined with great scenery of the surrounding mountains made for an easy wait.

IMG_1964

The doorman, Jeff, or Geoff, or maybe I am wrong as I only heard him say, “with 2 f’s,” so I guess I made the assumption his name was Jeff. Could be Ralff, perhaps, but anyway, Jeff came over and we began talking about Banff. He knew a lot about West Virginia, which surprised me, I guess. He told me Banff is indeed wonderful, but not if I don’t like snow.

I don’t like snow. Darn. There goes my dream of moving here when I retire. All kidding aside, I would move to this area in a heartbeat. I am over the moon with the Canadian Rockies. West Virginia is known as the Mountain State, but in all honesty, in comparison maybe we should adjust that moniker to the “Mound State.” The Rockies reach high into the sky, poking right through the clouds. I have decided I am no longer a “beach person.”

I took a final picture of the Rimrock before I had to leave. This was a great hotel.

IMG_1959

A Sun Dog Tour bus pulled up at exactly 1:30. This promptness is just unacceptable. It made me smile, because I have never seen such promptness as I have witnessed on this trip. Bravo, Canadian work force.

There would be only 4 others joining us on the transfer tour to Lake Louise. When I climbed on board, I saw a couple from Texas who were on the Rocky Mountaineer with me in the same carriage. We then stopped at Banff Springs Hotel to pick up another couple.

IMG_1965

How ironic. They were also on the Rocky Mountaineer, sitting just a few rows in front of me. They were from England. After we got settled and began our trip to Lake Louise, we discovered we were all using Fresh Tracks Canada for our trips. We discussed how wonderful it was to use such a wonderful travel company. I told them that what drew me to call them in the first place was the fact that I liked their polar bear on the front page of their web site. You know, sometimes it’s just those little things that make you decide upon something. So glad I did. There is no doubt I will be using them for any future Canadian adventure I hope to take.

Our tour guide asked if we minded taking a side trip to Moraine Lake as she needed to take the couple from England there. Are you kidding me? Can this vacation get any better? I was wishing I had more time on this Canadian Rockies adventure to visit the Cave and Basin National Historical Site in Banff and Moraine Lake. The Cave and Basin is one of nine sulphurous hot springs clustered in three groups near Sulphur Mountain. Since I already saw one, I will visit The Cave and Basin on my next trip to the area. (See, already wanting to come back.) But, I will get to see this beautiful lake, even though we will only have a few minutes to get out of the bus and snap some shots. I’m a lucky duck.

We first went by Castle Mountain. The tour guide tried to go a back road, but the route was closed due to the recent flooding and mudslides. So, we had to turn around. I did get a photo of Castle Mountain from a closer vantage point.

IMG_1968

IMG_1971

We were near Lake Louise and took the left towards Moraine Lake. The sign said “11km.” It was a nice drive. Our tour guide told us the road is closed in the winter and used as a cross country ski trail. The thought of snow closing a road made me shudder. They must get an awful lot of snow up here.

Finally, we reach the sparkling blue Moraine Lake. It was stunning.

IMG_1974

IMG_1976

From where I stood Moraine Lake did not look so large, but looks are deceiving. It is a large lake. It is situated in the valley of the Ten Peaks, although being at an elevation of 6,183 feet does not seem like a valley. The photo does not do it justice. I even looked it up on Google Earth when I got home to see if looks were indeed deceiving. Indeed. It is spectacular. As I have learned earlier on this trip, the color is due to the refraction of light off the rock flour deposited in the lake on a continual basis.

After dropping off the couple from England and snapping a few pictures from this one end of the lake, we are on our way to Lake Louise, where I will spend the rest of the day exploring the lake.

Next up: Canadian Rockies, Day 6, 7: Lake Louise

Canadian Rockies Trip: Day 5: Athabasca Glacier/Icefields Parkway

Today I dress in layers and head to the Athabasca Glacier.  I think I’m more excited to drive along the stunning Icefields Parkway on our journey to the glacier. The total tour takes nine hours.

There are over 100 glaciers that line the Icefield Parkway, which makes it one of the most scenic drives in the world. I looked it up, and it is actually ranked the third most scenic drive in the world. That’s a big deal.

Normally, on the Essential Rockies by Fresh Tracks, I would have had the day to discover Banff. I wanted to visit the Athabasca Glacier, so Tyler from Fresh Tracks custom designed a great day for me. I don’t think he has any idea how well that worked out.

I looked at my itinerary, and was ready for the van or bus from Discover Banff Tours to pick me up. There are many tour operators who have tours along the Icefields Parkway, but this tour was supposed to have a small group and a knowledgeable tour guide for the day. The  company is rated quite high on Tripadvisor, so I was ready for a great day.

After I ate breakfast at the hotel, which was fantastic and opened at 6:30 so I didn’t have to rush as I was getting picked up at 8:15, I checked out the lobby area in depth.

IMG_1962

IMG_1963

At exactly 8:15, a Discover Banff Tours van pulled up. The was one guest already in the van. The driver informed me he would take us to the Banff Springs Hotel to pick up our other guests and to change vehicles. I was hoping it was a small group, no larger than 20, so I could take great photos without squeezing in somewhere to get a good shot.

When we pulled in, there was a girl standing there. A short time later, a van pulled up and our tour guide jumped out. Mia, who will look after us for the day, informed us that normally the minimum guests they would take on a tour is 4, but since I had a voucher and purchased it a long time ago, they decided to honor it and give the tour. I have a feeling that there were a lot of cancellations due to the terrible flooding in the area. So, there were only three of us on the whole tour! It gets better. The girl was only going as far as Lake Louise, so that meant the man from Scotland and I were the only guests on this tour. Thanks, Fresh Tracks for setting us up with a fantastic tour company. I can’t believe they didn’t cancel the tour. What a class act!

This full day sightseeing tour that travels a glacial landscape begins at Lake Louise.  We settled into our comfortable Mercedes van and off we went. We weren’t even out of Banff when we saw a coyote walking near us on the railroad tracks. Mia is extremely interesting and knows her stuff. She told us about all the history of the area and was very sensitive to the environment. It was going to be a great day.

The first thing on the drive that we came across was the overhead wildlife pass. Built for the animals to traverse the highway safely, the park system painstakingly created a series of over and underpasses for the animals. Mia answered every question I had concerning the animals safety and was a wealth of information on the protection of the bears and the fences put up to help keep them from the highway. I found myself looking for the underpasses along the way. She had stories about some of the poor animal deaths due to motorists who stop and create a “bear jam” which can scare the bears into running into the road through the fence.  So, she let us know that she would not stop if there were any bears along the road. I smiled, as I agreed 100%, but I had my camera ready just in case.

IMG_1694

Our first stop along the Trans-Canada Highway is Lake Louise, which is 34 miles from Banff. We had some time to take pictures of the area before we headed back onto the parkway. I was spending the night at Lake Louise the next day, so I just walked over to the boat house and talked to the tour guide working there and snapped a few photos of the lake.

IMG_1697

IMG_1709

IMG_1712

IMG_1705

IMG_1713

We met back in the parking lot and continued on the Icefields parkway. It was amazing. The mountains completed surrounded us.

IMG_1715

Along the way, Mia told us stories about the early explorers, such as Wild Bill Peyto and David Thompson.

Well, we approached the so called, “bear jam.” Mia slowed the van down so we could get a good shot and planned to communicate to the park people as soon as we reached the Columbia Ice Centre as we are in an area without cell phone service. The bear was very close to the road…and to people. I hoped it would traipse back into the woods very soon.

IMG_1719

We came across Crowfoot Glacier, which has now retreated and has lost one of its “toes.” I see it through the window and decide to take a shot even before we get out of the van.

IMG_1722

IMG_1724

IMG_1725

Next up, Bow Lake. Mia explains how it gets its color, which as a teacher,  I find quite interesting. It is a beautiful color. It is beautiful.

IMG_1731

 

 

IMG_1734

The landscape was remarkable at each turn

IMG_1735

IMG_1736

I was in awe when I saw Peyto Lake. This can’t be real!  We just beat a huge tour bus to the small wooden platform. We were able to get great photos before the bus arrived. Mia noticed they were directly behind us, so we quickly got out of the van and made our way on the short trail. Yay, Mia! The beauty of the lake was beyond words.

IMG_1738

The place looks like a postcard. There is no way you could take a bad picture.  I could have stayed at this lake for hours. I think I took about 30 photos here alone. It was stunning.

IMG_1739

IMG_1741

Mia explained what a moraine was near a glacier. I think this is what she meant. A retreating or melting glacier leaves a lot of debris of rock and soil behind. She was a wealth of information. How fortunate to be taking a tour with only one other person. The other tour bus was filled with people who filed out without commentary outside of the bus. Mia was pointing and discussing all aspects of the Canadian Rockies with us. I was lucky Fresh Tracks Canada put me with a tour company that specializes in small group touring.

IMG_1746

A moraine is a glacially formed accumulation of debris, as in rock or soil deposited in the area. I guess I just mentioned that.

Mia has informed us that since she usually has tour groups up to twenty people, we are well ahead of schedule since there are only two of us. She asks if we would like to see Mistaya Canyon. How wonderful.

As soon as we pull into the parking lot and we get out of the van, a raven flies right at me and then plops down right in front of me and just stares at me. I have never seen a raven, so this was a treat. I ‘m thinking he was looking for a treat as well. We have crows back in West Virginia, but ravens are much larger. And crows don’t want anything to do with me. I have tried to tame a few. This fellow hopped behind us until we were at the top of the trail.

IMG_1749

We weren’t even on the path yet when a chipmunk like creature crawled out of his hole and stretched in front of us. The animals in Canada are not afraid of people at all. I guess when you live at a scenic stop, you are bound to get use to the humans.

IMG_1748

It was a decent .31 mile walk down the rocky path to the canyon. Most of it was straight down. I was hesitant because I have the lung capacity of a worm. Really, a worm. But, boy was it worth it. Mistaya Canyon is beautiful. Over the years, the water has carved a path through the rock and has left just a beautiful canyon.

IMG_1752

IMG_1757

IMG_1755

And the drive continues

IMG_1762

like something you would see on a postcard

like something you would see on a postcard

IMG_1767

I can’t begin to tell you how many pictures I took on this magnificent drive along the Icefields Parkway. We have been traveling for a while and have now reached the Columbia Icefields and the Athabasca Glacier. It is amazing.

IMG_1774

IMG_1775

I noticed little specks of black and realize those are the snocoaches we will be riding. I zoomed in to see if I was right.

IMG_1776

IMG_1779

We take buses over from the Visitor’s Centre to a place where we will then climb aboard the Snocoach explorer.

IMG_1781

IMG_1783

Once on board, our driver, who was from England, told us how fast the Snocoaches could travel (28 mph) and how each one cost $1 million dollars to build. I tried to listen, but the sight was just too amazing. I do remember hearing the driver also tell us about the Continental Divide and how the melt water from the Columbia Icefield flowed to the three oceans: The Arctic, the Pacific, and the Atlantic (via Hudson Bay) The glacial water is the purest natural water known. I couldn’t wait to taste it.

You could see the road we were about to travel onto the glacier.

IMG_1784

I felt like I was on a different planet.

IMG_1785

IMG_1788

IMG_1793

IMG_1796

We had 20 minutes to take pictures before we had to return to our Snocoach. That was more than enough time to walk around, drink the water, and take some photos. It was remarkable to think that we were actually standing on a glacier.

IMG_1797

IMG_1799

IMG_1816

I took so many pictures while standing on this glacier. It would take me forever to load them all.

IMG_1824

We then loaded up and started our journey back to the Visitor Centre. Our tour guide was waiting for us at the bus, and we started on our journey back to Banff.

IMG_1843

As we traveled on our way back to Banff, Mia informed us that this is usually where her clients fall asleep as it is a long day, but I can’t keep my eyes off these amazing views. After driving for a while, we stopped at Bow Lake, but from the other side of the lake in a First Nations village. The scenery was just as beautiful.

IMG_1855

IMG_1856

Back in Banff

IMG_1859

What an amazing day with an amazing guide. Mia, from Discover Banff Tours, could not have done a better job. I gave her a nice tip and she let me out in town as I wanted to get dinner and check out Banff one last time before I head to Lake Louise tomorrow afternoon.

IMG_1860

Discover Banff Tours at http://www.banfftours.com and their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/discoverbanfftours?fref=ts

Fresh Tracks Canada at http://www.freshtrackscanada.com/ and their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FreshTracksCanada?fref=ts

Canadian Rockies Trip, Day 2: Stanley Park and Grouse Mountain

I woke up early this morning as I wanted to make a full day of my short time in Vancouver.  I jumped out of bed to look out of the window to make sure it wasn’t raining. If it was raining, I was going to go to the Vancouver Aquarium.

Well, the first thing on my agenda was to eat breakfast and then hop on the trolley and hop off somewhere in Stanley Park.  I walked downstairs to figure out where I wanted to eat, and decided to waltz  in to the Sutton Place’s  restaurant,  Fleuri. I got the breakfast buffet and it was very good. I really like Sutton Place. It’s a very classy place.

079

After breakfast I looked at the Vancouver Hop on Hop off  trolley tour  schedule and decided since it didn’t make its first run until 9:20, I would get an early start and I just had the doorman wave a taxi up to the door. I really am feeling the love. I didn’t even have to stand on the curb and hail one. This is high class, people.

I had him drop me off at the  First Nations totem poles. (For those of you who don’t know your canadian history, First Nations people are the same people we call Native Americans). Same thing, only different.

No trip to Stanley Park is complete without visiting its famous landmarks: Lost Lagoon, Siwash Rock, the Hollow Tree, Beaver Lake and Prospect Point. I didn’t see Lost Lagoon up close and personal and I didn’t get to Beaver Lake because beavers bite and I didn’t want one sneaking up on me and taking my leg for a tree stump or something. No, actually, I just didn’t get around to it today.

008

 

 

IMG_1207

 

 

IMG_1209

 

 

 

Ouch

Ouch

The nine totem poles at Brockton Point are British Columbia’s  most visited tourist attraction. I had to see these totem poles. My fourth grade class makes totem poles out of paper towel tubes every fall when we study the Pacific Northwest Indians. It would be great to have some photos of them to use in their designs.  So, I took a lot of pictures. I don’t think I will be using the photo right above, though.

After I took  totem pole pictures,  I could see the seawall and decided to take a little stroll. A little stroll in my world means walking about 50 feet and then leaving. But, today I was feeling it. The breeze from the water and the Brocton Point Lighthouse in the distance made me want to walk as much as I could on a stupid ankle partially messed up because of arthritis.  I guess the ankle wanted me to walk, too, because it wasn’t hurting  much and I just kept walking. (I sound like Forrest Gump, but at least he ran.)  I ended up walking around a majority of the park, more than 4 miles. That’s 4 miles more than I usually walk. I took a lot of great pictures, because I’m a great pretend photographer.

Brocton Point Lighthouse

Brocton Point Lighthouse

 

A closer look

A closer look

 

I just kept walking because the sights were just unbelievable.

 

IMG_1217

 

Lions Gate Bridge up aheadIMG_1221

 

I came across a park bench with a bouquet of flowers lying on the ground. Uh oh…I imagine something didn’t go as expected, perhaps.

IMG_1206

 

The Vancouver Canadian geese seem much happier than the ones permanently visiting West Virginia. Well, that’s what I think.

IMG_1222

 

 

Lions Gate Bridge and what's on that rock?

Lions Gate Bridge and what’s on that rock?

Why, it’s a girl in a wet suit

Close up of the girl on a rock

Close up of the girl on a rock

.

The girl on a rock represents Vancouver’s dependence on the sea and the necessity to use the sea for the benefit of all.

IMG_1226

 

IMG_1227

 

IMG_1228

 

 

There was an orange hazard cone on the seawall, so I cropped the whole sea wall out of this photo and like this much better.

 

IMG_1225

 

 

IMG_1239

 

 

IMG_1249

 

I was excited to take this picture of a great blue heron until I realized they were all over the place…which was still exciting for me.

 

IMG_1240

It wasn’t until I was under the Lions Gate Bridge and there was no way out but to continue walking did I realize I was not very smart because I didn’t bring any water. I’m not the brightest star in the sky, that’s for sure. But, I decided I had to see one more landmark: Siwash Rock. When I came around the fifteenth bend or so, there it was, smiling at me. (Well, you know.)

 

IMG_1245

 

 

Yay…there it is!

 

IMG_1247

 

 

044

 

 

IMG_1253

 

 

IMG_1266

 

 

IMG_1267

 

Such a relaxing place, this seawall

IMG_1268

 

and now with a kayaker. He was all over the place.

 

IMG_1271

After I took a gazillion pictures,  it started raining. So, I hopped on the hop on hop off  bus and went to the Aquarium. It was expensive, I thought, for $30, but it was a nice place to hang out while it was raining.

070

After I left the aquarium, and went and stood in the line for the Hop on Hop off shuttle. I’m thinking they should re-name it the Hop Off Shuttle, because once you are off,  good luck getting back on. I waited an hour to catch a trolley. After I finally caught one, we stopped at the next stop, and there were at least 15 angry people. One lady had waited for 2 hours.

Well, I had to hurry home and get ready for my big evening on top of Grouse Mountain.  I was picked up at 6:45, and climbed into a van with 6 other people. We were supposed to go on a trolley, but since it was RAINING,  people must have canceled. We got to the top of Grouse Mountain, only to find that many of the activities were closed down for the night. And since it was raining, my thoughts of getting a picture of  Vancouver and the supermoon was all but gone. But, I did see two grizzly bears and managed to get a picture of one before it attacked our bus driver. Ok, kidding.

Nice climb to the top

Nice climb to the top

We did get to see orphaned grizzly cubs, Grinder and Coola as they hung out right in front of us, separated by an electrified fence. It was eery being so close to the bears.  One looked at me as I told him the same thing I always say to animals, “Look how pretty you are.”

074

 

Grouse Mountain Bear Cam http://www.grousemountain.com/wildlife-refuge/bear-cam

I got home around 10:30 and am packing everything up as tomorrow I head on my Rocky Mountaineer adventure. Good-bye Vancouver. I hope to see you again!

Canadian Rockies Trip, Day 1: Arrival in Vancouver

Well, I am finally here in Vancouver…..  And it just really sucks. Ok, just kidding.  Everything so far as gone like clockwork. Thanks, Fresh Tracks Canada.

IMG_1204

Before I talk about my first introduction to this great city in the Pacific northwest, let me back up and tell you about my experience at the Pittsburgh airport before my flight. I wish someone would have been filming me.

I read where Air Canada is really strict about their carry-on dimensions.  And you know from a previous post that I was planning to just pack a carry-on because of my tight connecting flight timeline. So,  I went out and bought a nice piece of luggage that correlated with Air Canada’s carry-on policy.

I do try to be a rule follower.

So, when I got to the airport, I looked around and saw where my carry-on looked larger than everyone elses. Uh oh. I didn’t bring checked baggage. Oh, sure, I bought my old carry-on and left it in the back of my car….just in case, but  I had everything looking good.

So, I happened to see an Air Canada metal thingy, you know the apparatus where you put your carry-on in to make sure it fits to their dimensions for carry-on baggage. Well, it was in a little corner and there wasn’t an Air Canada person around, so I put my carry-on in the size thingy. (I’m sorry, I don’t know what the darn thing is called.)

It would not fit…. Not even close.

This is not good, Vickie, not good at all. So, I pushed it and manuevered the wheels, and scraped my fingers  pushing it down, and lo and behold, it finally plopped down!

Stuck

Stuck

And so I thought I would be a smart alec and I took a couple of pictures so that if and when the Air Canada people say, “Hey, you can’t take that monstrous bag on the plane,” I can just bring out my camera and show the picture, like, “Take that, obsessive compulsive Air Canada person.

Sounded pretty good except for one thing: I couldn’t get the bag back out. At all.

It would not budge.  I tried everything. I even had the metal apparatus on its side. I was working so hard I broke out into a sweat, although I think it was more because I was afraid I would have to check my bag AND the metal thingy with Air Canada.

Really really stuck

Really really stuck

So, there was only one thing I could do: I started wrestling with it….I mean, I was sitting on the floor. I was standing on the silver things on the bottom, I flung it one way and then flung it another way. I punched at that bag and jiggled its wheels.  I finally had to start pushing the whole thing out into the open and I was going to find a maintenance guy who had a welding gun…or something to break my poor carry-on free. Finally,  as I alsmost started to cry (not really, but almost),  I was able to free it.

I really wish someone had filmed it.

Anyway, back to my trip report. My flights were great and Toronto Pearson was pretty efficient I thought. I arrived in Vancouver and went to the baggage claim just like Fresh Tracks Canada instructed me to, and there was my driver waiting for me, holding a sign with my last name on it.  The driver was wonderful. He had two bottles of water waiting for me in the car and gave me a commentary about Vancouver: best places to go and history of the area. It was a great ride into the city.

When we pulled up to Sutton Place, the doorman got my bags and lead me inside. I had asked Fresh Tracks if they could get me an early check-in, and it was all taken care of before I walked in today. I was impressed.  Tyler from Fresh Tracks suggsted this boutique hotel since it was right in the middle of everything, and how right he was. This place is really great!

I really didn’t do much today in Vancouver. I bought a 2 day Hop on Hop off tour of Vancouver from the Vancouver Trolley Company, but stayed on the whole loop just to get a feel for the city and to give me ideas what I wanted to do in the morning. There is a trolley stop right in front of the hotel. All I have to do is flag one down as it comes by.

Really big trees in Stanley Park

Really big trees in Stanley Park

The concierge confirmed my sunset tour to the top to Grouse Mountain tomorrow evening, so I will be taking more pictures tomorrow.

IMG_1205

After I hopped off the trolley, I started to walk down Robson Street since I am right in the middle of everything. Robson Street is the heart of the city, some say. It s the most famous street in Vancouver, known for its shopping and dining establishments.

According to robsonstreet.ca, “Robson-goers may spend their day people watching and sipping coffee on an outdoor patio; they may start off shopping at unique boutique stores before being pampered at a day spa and then relaxing at a hotel. At night, the streets come alive with colorful buskers and performers. Visitors enjoy delicious drinks and fine foods at some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants. The street is recognized both on a worldwide level as well as locally as it remains Vancouverites’ favorite shopping destination. Robson is undoubtedly the street to see and be seen on.”

I had to look up what a busker is. I have never heard that term before. A busker is a street performer. The first thing that comes to mind when I think “busker, or street performer” is an organ grinder. I’ve always wanted to see one. I’ve only seen one on tv. But, here in Vancouver, they are called “buskers.”

“Maximum performance time is 60 minutes at any one location. After 60 minutes, you must move to a different location at least one full block away or in a different park.”  So, if you are busking and play a harp, be prepared to move every hour. Just sayin’.

I did walk down Robson, looking for a restuarant as I was starving. And because I’m always up for something new and exotic….and entered a Red Robin. I know, I’m pathetic. But, I’m tired. Tomorrow will be the day for pictures.

At least I won’t have to wrestle my bag anymore. It is sitting in the air-conditioned elegant room, sitting on a chair resting from being beat up on earlier.

Pretty sad when I try to bring a suitcase to life….I’m really tired.

I really like Canada so far.

Canadian Rockies Trip: Vancouver Eve

I’m ready to go. I have my detailed itinerary from Fresh Tracks Canada, my passport, Canadian moolah, and my camera with several memory cards. In a few short days I will be hearing the clickety clackety sound of the Rocky Mountaineer train as it takes me through the Canadian Rockies. But, up first, Vancouver, British Columbia.

I’ve decided to drive up tonight and stay in a motel close to the Pittsburgh airport. My flight is at 7:00 a.m., so I really don’t want to travel on Pennsylvania roads with suicidal deer and other critters with their red eyes looking at me while they pause in the middle of the interstate. No, I’ll find a hotel tonight that has an airport shuttle, you know, just in case my car doesn’t start in the morning. I have a neighbor who has eyes in the back of his head keeping an eye on my house and he knows under any circumstance should a vehicle or person be “visiting” me. The guy has a gun and he is craaaazy. (That should work, potential blog-reading-robbers)

You have to understand that I over-think everything. My main concern about this trip was the fact that I would be staying for six nights in four different hotels. What if Air Canada loses my luggage? I was watching the nightly news and they were giving statistics about how many bags are lost or delayed at the airports. How in the world would they catch up to me, depending on when (and IF) they locate my luggage? So, I have decided to learn to pack like a pro and just take a carry-on…and a computer bag…..and a purse…..and a jacket.

That may prove to be a silly dream. I need to take a jacket and clothing for 7 days. And that means 14 days in my world. I always over pack because you just never know. I will also need warmer clothing because one of the days I am going to visit a glacier. But,  I have been watching  youtube videos on “How to Pack for a Week in a Carry-On” and think I can do it. I’ve been trying to do it for the last couple of hours.

I don’t think I can’t do it..

not even done....

not even done….

I am supposed to land at 12:04 p.m. After picking up my baggage that I’m still thinking I won’t take, I am supposed to wait in baggage claims for my personal driver. I will have a personal driver…. You know, someone who stands at the airport holding a sign with  a name on it.   How special am I?  I hope he won’t be annoyed when I snap a picture of him. It will be hard for me not to talk to him, but I have learned my lesson from the New York City cab driver a few weeks back and will try to keep my mouth shut.

I’m excited to visit Vancouver. I didn’t realize it until last week, but I will be in Vancouver during our next “Super moon.”  And not only that, the photo opportunities will be greater the next night when I travel to the top of Grouse Mountain on the “Sunset Tour.” It is almost like I did that on purpose. I hope the weather cooperates.

It’s not supposed to cooperate….well, now it is as I go to post this. Yeehaw!

For those of you who don’t know a lot about our northern neighbor, let me tell you a few things about the vast country up above us.  Canada is divided into 8…. or maybe 10 provinces. (Be right back) Ok, Canada is divided into ten provinces: Alberta, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, New Foundland, Ontario, Saskatchewan……damn, I’m not very smart. (Be right back)

…..and Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Quebec. There are also three territories. Vancouver is located in British Columbia, which is way over there above Washington state. My grandparents lived in Spokane, Washington, so that is the closest I have ever been to British Columbia. When you look at the atlas, it is amazing how enormous British Columbia really is. And I get to go there tomorrow.

canada

*Vancouver is one of Canada’s warmest cities…uh oh, and it’s wettest…. There’s just no way it better rain on my parade. The Weather Channel online states that the weather in Vancouver this weekend will be partly cloudy on Saturday, 20% rain on Sunday,and 40% rain on Monday. Bummer for Monday. I think Weather.com  may be lying. After all, this is a trip of a lifetime, so it can’t rain.

*Vancouver is a very diverse city. 52% of its residents do not speak English as their first language  Over 30% of the population are Chinese. I will have to remember that if I get lost roaming the streets of Vancouver. I wonder if they will know what “pop” is, because I’m sure as hell not asking for a soda. (Be right back)…………… Ok, good, both British Columbia and Albert say “pop.”  I knew I liked these provinces.

*35% of Vancouver’s population is foreign born, the highest figure in the world.

*Vancouver is North America’s second largest Port (in tonnage & physical size) – after New York

*Vancouver is the second or third largest film production centre in North America. The X-Files was filmed here as was the Twilight movies.

*Vancouver is probably the only place in the world where it is possible to ski, play golf, and go sailing all in the same day.

*-Vancouver is the birthplace of the one of the worlds largest environmental organizations – Greenpeace

*Vancouver sits atop one of the worlds most dangerous faults. Well, that’s nice to know. There is also a sizable active volcano (Mt. Baker) close to the city in nearby Washington state. Well, I guess I am close to the famous “ring of fire.” My students learn about earthquakes and volcanoes each year. I hope I don’t have a story for them when they return to school this fall.

*Stanley Park, Vancouver’s largest, is 1001 acres—making it 10% bigger than New York City’s Central Park. I was just at Central Park last month. I will scope it out and compare the two. I can not imagine any park being more beautiful than Central Park. We shall see….even if it is raining….sigh.

*The Vancouver Aquarium ranks in the top 5 around the world. I plan to go there if it is raining. I keep a penguin cam from the Vancouver Aquarium up on one of my computers in my classroom and turn it on at the end of most days. The camera is right in front of the penguins and it is fun to watch. I just may have to pay them a visit and wave into the camera for someone like me who is watching the penguin cam.

Well, I think I have everything. The next time you hear from me, I will be in Vancouver, British Columbia, day 1 of my Canadian Rockies adventure. If you don’t hear from me, that means I am still at the airport or the wi-fi sucks at the hotel. We shall see.

I guess I could always find a Starbucks. The have free wi-fi….  Vancouver has over 200 of them.

Too bad I don’t like coffee.

S’mores

I have always loved picnics. Since I was the pickiest child on the planet, it was hard for my mom to find something I liked. No problem at a summer picnic, because there was a lot of food for me to put on my thin, wiggly paper plate. I would eat corn on the cob and watermelon. Ta-da. Ok, there were other foods I would eat. I wouldn’t touch the potato salad because whoever heard of putting chopped up potatoes in a whitish mixture ? I could also see little bits and pieces of unidentified food that I knew would take me forever to dig out. But, there was no way I was going to eat potatoes and white stuff in the first place and then call the damn thing a salad. Made no sense to me…potato salad. Give me a break. I saw no lettuce.  There was no way I was going to try that…ever. They did the same thing with macaroni noodles and called it macaroni salad. Macaroni is supposed to be with cheese or with beefaroni (which we called slop in my family.) Sometimes these ladies at the picnics brought the weirdest food.

I liked hamburgers with ketchup, but I would give the guy at the grill a dirty look if he tried to scoot a cheeseburger onto my bun. Um, Mr. Barbecue man, did I say cheese? No…who would ever put cheese on top of a piece of beef? That had to taste terrible. I would eat sliced Velveeta cheese at home and got pretty good with that cheese slicer thingy, but I would never put a slice of that on top of a hamburger. You just can’t mix things like that. So, sometimes I would just skip the hamburger and grab a fresh hot dog bun and put ketchup on it. I loved ketchup sandwiches! And in the end, I didn’t starve and picnics were great.

When our family would stay late at a picnic, usually a campfire would be involved. The adults whittled sticks and would place a hot dog in one hand and slide shove the stick through the middle of the hot dog halfway and would hand them to the kids. The first time I saw this happen, I didn’t know what the hell was going on.  What is this for, exactly? Everyone would then move close to the fire to get their hot dog nice and cooked.  Well, ok, but why not just throw them into a pot of  boiling water and be done with it? I didn’t much care for hot dogs on a grill because some of them had black pieces on them. The blackened burned spots would peel off like a scab, but again, it was too much work. And now someone was trying to get me to stick my hot dog in a blazing fire.

The whole problem with a hot dog impaled on a whittle stick was the fact that what if there was a sliver of wood that came off in the hot dog? I would put my hot dog near the flame, just enough to get it warm, and then take the hot dog and stick over to my mom and ask her to take a look at the inside of the hot dog to make sure I wouldn’t get a splinter in my throat. You know that could happen, right? My mom would shoo me away because I guess I already bothered her for most of the day, so I would take a plastic knife and dissect that damn hot dog to see if it was ok to eat. Again, though, this just took too much work, so I would just eye the hot dog bun and put some ketchup on it.

So, this whole  picky Vickie story leads up to the whole problem with s’mores.

S’mores. The word even makes me cringe. I don’t think I saw them until I was in junior high. I was still picky in junior high, but I wanted  to be cool, so I had to pretend I was all about s’mores and not complain like I did when I was at a campfire with my family. The first part of the whole s’more experience was getting that damn marshmallow warmed up and gooey. First of all, I wasn’t a fan of getting gooey fingers. Not going to happen. Oh, sure, I would impale my marshmallow down on the stick after slyly checking the stick for errant splinters. I would hover my marshmallow over the flame for a second and while everyone else was watching their own marshmallow, I took mine off and would eat it. I hated warm marshmallows. I hated melted marshmallows. But, I wanted to fit in with the other kids and if I told them I hated s’mores, then, well, they would hate me and maybe call me “Picky Sticky Vickie” or something.

By the time some of the other kids got their marshmallow off their sticks, I was already by the picnic table grabbing two graham crackers. Thank god I liked graham crackers, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to share them with melted white goo and a hunk of chocolate.  I decided whoever mixed these three food items together for the very first time must have had rocks in their head.

So, it was like this every summer at every picnic I went to. I had to work hard and perfected my s’mores avoidance technique: Put the marshmallow on a stick for like 5 seconds, take it off, pretend it is gooey, go to the table and on the way eat the marshmallow. One time I thought I was being watched, so I made the whole damn thing and then….oops, dropped it on the ground. There is no 3 second rule in the woods or any place with me.  There was no way I was picking it up.

It wasn’t until college  when I was invited to a picnic and offered a stick, that I realized a lie didn’t take much work at all.

“I’m allergic to marshmallows, and you can’t make a s’more without marshmallows.”  Damn, why didn’t I lie earlier. I lied about everything else.

In the past twenty years it has been easier to pass on the s’mores.

“Oh, hell no.”

The Popcorn Muncher

Sometimes I get a chuckle from facebook status messages. One of those messages  made me laugh out loud this morning:

“If someone in Fairview is missing a goat it’s in my yard!!”

I laughed and then I smiled with a great memory from when my children were young. We lived “out in the country” if you want to call it that. We sat on 13 acres and I had wildlife at my kitchen door daily. It was wonderful. We used to watch a snapping turtle climb out of our pond and creep up to the top of  hill by our house and work for hours digging a hole to deposit her eggs. She did this every year. I had no idea that a snapping turtle finds the highest point she can for her egg delivery. I went out one year and dug a hole parallel to where she was working to no avail. She would look over at me like “What the hell, lady.”  As soon as I went back in the house, she moved over and continued where I started digging for her. My children loved it and I felt like an awesome mom and general turtle helper.

Well, every Christmas season, which is right after Thanksgiving in my household, I would bring out the air popper and make popcorn for our Christmas tree. I learned over the years to let the popcorn sit out for a few days for easier stringing. It just sucks to try to push a needle through fresh popcorn.It was hard not to curse in front of my children. “Oh….sugar” just didn’t make it. Some of those  needle-through-my fingers needed a full f-bomb rant. It wasn’t until after the internet was invented (thanks Al Gore) that I was able to read advice on proper popcorn stringing. Some years I would feel more energetic with my popcorn stringing and completely loop around the tree. Other years, not  so much. I would faux string it, which means cheating and only showing the popcorn string where people can see the tree.

After Christmas was over and the tree was taken down, I would slide the popcorn off the thread and put it in a large stainless steel bowl.

“Kids, I’m going to put the popcorn out on the mound so the birds can have a Christmas treat.”

Am I an awesome wildlife lady or what? The mound I am referring to was a place underneath a hickory tree near our pavilion. When we leveled the yard after we built our home, I wanted to save the hickory, so we left a little hill area in front of the tree. We placed a large granite stone at the base of the tree. This is where I would lay out goodies for the birds  and squirrels. And after Christmas, it was where I put the popcorn.

So, one day I had the kids put on their coats and I took that stainless steel bowl outside and explained to the kids what kind of birds may want to eat the popcorn.

“Let’s keep an eye out, because we may see blue jays…..and crows…..and..maybe a bird we haven’t seen on the mound before.”

It was starting to snow, which was great while decorating the tree. It really puts you in the mood. My daughter loved to help put the ornaments on the tree and it wasn’t too long when she too, would stand back after carefully deciding where to put a particular ornament. My son was generally waiting for me to put together my little Christmas  village of buildings and people as he loved putting a little boy headfirst down into the well or laying  him on the white ground with a horse drawn sleigh getting ready to run over him. To be honest, I loved walking into the kitchen to see what he moved around next.

A few hours after I put the popcorn out on the mound, my daughter ran into the Hearth room with a big smile on her face.

“Mommy, there’s a cow eating the popcorn!” Cackling is always a great laugh, and Alex was doing her share of cackling.

Whaat? We walked over to the  kitchen french door and lo and behold, there indeed was a cow munching on our popcorn. It was a big solid black cow and it was loving the popcorn. This was the year I made a large popcorn garland for the Christmas tree, so there was a heap of popcorn on the mound.  Popcorn was coming out of both sides of his mouth. The cackling from Little One continued. Adam took a break from putting a dog on a roof  in the village to join us at the door.

“Mommy, you never said a cow would come to the mound,” she managed to say between her wonderful laugh. Adam stood there watching the cow munching like it hadn’t been fed in a while.  It was a funny sight, especially since the most we were expecting were blue jays or crows.

We stood there for a long while, actually stunned that there was a cow in our yard. Our neighbors had cows, but they lived down over the hill and were far away from us. I knew it had to belong to them. The cow must have slipped through a broken barb-wired fence and trotted away and decided to visit us, I guess.

After I made the call and our neighbor came to retrieve the popcorn munching cow, we continued to decorate the tree and my son continued messing with the village, placing the little Christmas town on alert for the boy lost after jumping off a bridge.

It was a wonderful, wonderful memory and I thank my facebook friend who found a goat in her yard this morning.

It made me cackle.

Everyone Watch The Rose Parade, Ok?

I used to watch the Rose Parade every New Year’s Day for years before I was told all the floats were made of flowers. Maybe I just didn’t listen much to the commentator:

“And here’s a float from McDonalds…blah blah blah blah..roses.”

I was hyper when I was little, so maybe I just couldn’t watch and listen at the same time. The floats were beautiful. And it was named after a flower. Hence, the name, Rose Parade. I thought maybe it was named after a woman…….Rose McGillicuddy of Pasadena…..Ok, I made that name up. But why roses, I asked? Why not the Purple Cone Flower Parade or The Natural Material Parade?” I didn’t ask that when I was little. I’m asking that now when I am older and still challenged in so many ways. But, since I love to learn about insignificant things, I headed to google, king of all kings.

So, it looks like The Rose Parade started way back in Pasadena, California on January 1, 1890. The Rose Bowl football game was added in 1902 to help fund the parade. I thought that was pretty interesting.

The whole reason the parade started was to showcase the mild California winters. Many members of the Valley Hunt Club, the organizers of the very first Rose parade, were former residents of states in the east and midwest. One member announced at a meeting, “In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”  I would think the man should have said the oranges were ready to be picked, but I guess that’s how the hell they talked back then.

And so they did organize a little parade to show off how wonderful Pasadena is in the winter and how putting flowers on moving things made the freezing New Yorkers jealous enough to withdraw all of their money and move to their sunny community. What confuses me is the fact there was no television in 1902. People elsewhere would have to read about it in a newspaper. So, in the end, I am thinking the Valley Hunt Club wanted to ride down the street on their horses.

They had horse drawn carriages adorned with flowers. After the parade, there was a chariot race, tug-of war and other games which drew about 2,000 people. After a few years, the parade got too big for the Valley Hunt Club, so the Tournament of Roses was formed and later a football game replaced a chariot race, which was a big deal of the whole celebration.

The floats of today take about a year to construct. According to Wikipedia, “It is a rule of the parade that all surfaces of the float framework must be covered in natural materials (such as flowers, plants, seaweeds, seeds, bark, vegetables, or nuts, for example); furthermore, no artificial flowers or plant material are allowed, nor can the materials be artificially colored.”And this is what bothers me.  I mean, it bothers me just a little, but enough to gripe about it. Isn’t this a waste of nature?

I’m beginning to think somebody in the Valley Hunt Club was a florist.

Think about it. I bet you there are more florists in the Pasadena area than anywhere else. Ok, maybe flowers are shipped in from other flowery places. Tulips from Holland, perhaps. Acorns from a forest in the Applachians. I don’t know. But, this has got to be a boon for florist owners and growers. I guess that is a good thing for the economy. But, what happens to the flowers and natural materials after the parade. Do they go into the biggest compost pile in the world?

So, being that my mind is still a bit hyperactive and all over the place, I wondered about other wastes…..like Christmas trees. I have a bit of a problem with cutting down beautiful pine trees, dragging them home on top of a car, sticking them in the corner of a room and putting things on it….only to throw it away come New Years Day. Poor pine tree.

But then again, everything is like that, isn’t it? Chickens are raised only to have their heads cut off so they can be served on our dinner plates. Corn is grown on farms just so we can eat popcorn and cornbread stuffing. I guess I could go on and on. So, in the end, flowers are grown for the Rose Parade. I guess I have to live with that.

That being said, I think it is our responisibility to watch the Rose Parade to see the beauty of Pasadena’s mild winter and of course, the magnificent floats. They are beautiful. Band members nation-wide fund raise their little asses off to be able to be part of the parade. Our very own East Fairmont High School was able to participate in the Rose Parade several years ago. That was a big deal. And it was exciting to watch on tv.  I didn’t notice the sunny environment of California, however.

Is this still the objective? Regardless, watch the parade tomorrow. Kudos to the Valley Hunt Club of 1890. They came up with a great idea. Look how many people are now living in California.

 

 

 

Red Rover, Red Rover, Let’s Mow Vickie Over

Ever wake up and see a clown sitting on the edge of your bed?  Pretty scary, right?  Well, that’s how I felt when someone mentioned playing  Red Rover.  I hated when we played that game when I was little. I mean, who invented this horrible little game? I’m thinking some German woman weightlifter named Olga.  It was bad enough that I had to sing about the plague with “Ring a round the Rosie”,  now I had to get a knot in my stomach every time Red Rover was mentioned.

“Oh, Dear God, Bozo, they want to play Red Rover today. What would you do?”

First of all, no one wanted me on their team.  Remember, I was anorexic skinny.  The other team loved not having me on their team, because they knew I was the weakest link. They didn’t even need to whisper, “Run through Vickie”…..or… “See that girl, the one with the shaking knees and…wait, ok, she was standing sideways,..anyway, see that girl with just a little bit of skin on her bones?… Yeah, the one who is crying…. She will let go of  Lee Ann’s  hand every time. Run at her!”

Now,you have to understand, I wasn’t bad at outdoor games. I was awesome at kickball. I didn’t have much power in the kick, mind you, but I could run.  I ran like a deer. A graceful anorexic deer. We played kickball in my neighborhood all of the time. In the street beside my house. I played Duck Duck Goose. (I’m laughing out loud at that one right now)… Mother May-I?…Freeze Tag….Red Light, Green Light….Hopscotch…Colored Eggs…..Do I need to go on?  Ok, I will.  Drop the Hankerchief….Hot Potato…Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?….Chinese Jump Rope (made mine with a bunch of rubber bands)…Ok, done..Wait..I really liked singing The Farmer in the Dell, but damnit, never got to be the cheese, standing alone….I remember one time when it was getting late, we started playing  Hide and Go Seek, and had Monica be it. We told her to count to 100 so we could find a great place to hide, and then we all went home..Yeah, that was my idea.

We would play outside all day long. We had to. Our moms kicked us out of the house. If we stayed in the house, we had to fold towels and do chores. We had freedom outside. The only times we ran in the house was to pee and to get money for the ice cream man. When we were very little, the whole neighborhood was pissed off at my mom because she called the ice cream trucks company and told them that the truck came when “her children” were taking a nap. How dare that ice cream truck. So, they came after dinner until we got older and didn’t take naps. What kind of pull did that woman have to get them to adjust their arrival times..Wow, what a witch…Anyway, the ice cream man came later…sigh…not when you were playing and it was hot, but after dinner, which  was not as gratifying. Thank goodness I was fairly liked by my friends, or they would be doing much worse things to me than trying to break my arm with Red Rover.

For any of you who have been living  in a bubble and have never experienced the painful game of Red Rover, let me tell you the rules. You get two lines of kids that don’t have anything else to do but inflict pain on each other, make them hold hands  and then you take turns calling someone over. “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Vickie over”  That person runs like hell and tries to break all the bones in your arm as the person you are holding hands with has a death grip on your hand and won’t let go.  And you know damn well they will try to run off-center and concentrate on Brittle Girl.  Every time.

In the end, all games foster cooperation and teamwork, teach social skills and help develop coordination for those who walk funny.

But, call me crazy, but I think Red Rover was a game for losers…..Yeah, that’s right….. Future loser bullies. Because it was those loser bullies who were the first to also want to play Dodge Ball.

Don’t even get me started on that brain-damage-inducing game.

%d bloggers like this: