Monday, June 24, 2013

Mountain Vacation, pt 1

My family went on a vacation to the mountains that we had booked from June 15 - 21st. I've broken up my blog post because, as you'll read, the events that occurred that week were of two very different extremes: one of joy, and the other of anxiety and worry. While the latter half of our trip threatened to overshadow all the fun and happiness of the first half, I don't want to forget that the good times did happen. So I'll share my time away over two posts, although I'm sure that you, much like myself, will have difficulty dwelling on the first half, once you get through the second half.

Mountain Vacation Pt. 1

Every year my family has a joint vacation at our timeshare on Pigeon Mountain, just 5 minutes East of the town of Canmore. We had been looking forward to this trip for a long time; Matt had been overworked for a while, and I was looking forward to time with the family, as well as a break from my normal routine. We had prepped for a week by cleaning, packing and making sure everything at home would be taken care of while we were gone. On Saturday morning, it was finally time for us to head out!
We loaded three very sleepy boys into the car on Saturday and drove South to hit up Bass Pro Shop. One of the mainstays of our vacation each year is fishing and we wanted to be ready for that. We picked up a number of lures, mostly for rainbow trout in murky water since we knew there had been a fair bit of rain the week prior at the stocked ponds we normally frequent. $90 later and we had lures, bait and licenses for all. We grabbed a quick bite at the sandwich shop in the store and then went back out to the car to drive to the mountains - well, actually we needed to wait inside for a few minutes since there was a torrential storm that blew through and dumped a load of water everywhere, but soon we'd be in the mountains, away from all of that!
We got in the mountains to check in and quickly settled into our vacation lifestyle. We'd done this same thing for the past 5 years, so it was quick and methodical as we pulled out our food, supplies and clothes. We had everything we needed!
On the first night we had a pasta dinner before we headed down to make use of the pool in the main lodge. The boys had a great time swimming! Then it was back up to the chalets for bedtime (but I slipped away to play cards with the rest of the girls!)

The next morning we go up in good time to go fishing. We grabbed Tim Horton's for breakfast and then drove a very long and dusty road up to Spray Lakes. First we actually stopped just past the lakes to a little pond called Buller Pond, where many locals had been having a lot of luck. We, on the other hand, didn't see a thing. So after an hour we went back down the road to Spray Lakes again. The water was very low, so we figured we'd have more luck since the fish would be concentrated more... but we got nothing. Although, it was still a beautiful spot to go put a line in the water on Father's Day.
On our way back down the winding mountain road (with a massive cliff right beside you), the dust cleared just in time for us to see a herd of Mountain Sheep on the road right beside us. We had a rest back at our chalet before we joined up again for a steak dinner, then spent the evening watching a show at our own chalet.

I felt bad for Matt not catching anything the day before, so I arranged for him to go with my brother, his wife, and my parents down for a bit of fishing on the river, while the rest of us stayed up at the chalets with the kids. They were gone by 6:45 so they could get in a Timmy's run before putting a line in. But, alas, they had as much luck as they had the day before. At least they got to come home to a bacon and egg breakfast we whipped up while they were out! Once everyone was ready we set out for a game of Frisbee golf - a game we've come to embrace on our holidays. The kids only lasted a couple holes, so we took them to the playground while the boys played on. We cleared out of there just in time to miss the rain rolling in. We had vermicelli noodle bowls for supper that night and watched the Hobbit at one of the chalets.

On Tuesday morning Matt and I had plans to use, what the weather network said would be our last rain-free morning, for a hike. We had hoped to do Grotto Canyon with the whole group, but we knew our good weather wouldn't hold out forever, so since the rest of the group had a tee-time booked, we resolved on doing Grassi Lakes. But good news came in the morning - the tee-time got cancelled and everyone opted to revert back to our plan of hiking Grotto Canyon. Each of the parents strapped on a child into a carrier, and the grandparents had charge of the four-year-olds on foot. The canyon is rocky, with a creek running through it, and filled with fossils. There was one section where it was a bit tricky, and nerve-wracking, to get everyone down, but it was fairly smooth sailing for the rest of it. Matt stumbled upon a tiny nest with two eggs in it, and we were pleasantly surprised to see Momma Hummingbird return to her nest while we watched. We saw the paintings on the canyon wall, done hundreds of years ago, and made it to the waterfall at the end of the first section of the canyon. We did encounter a slight mishap here, involving rocks being dropped by younger brothers onto the older brother's head. My boy Gabriel had quite the headache, but fortunately was alright. Although he was quite attached to his Bumpa for the rest of the hike back. Once we got down from our hike, we were eager to go fishing, but also quite hungry. We resolved to head back to our chalet for a quick bite before we came back to do some fishing. Grotto Pond is our regular fishing hole on our vacations, but it's a regular fishing hole for a lot of people, so sometimes the fishing isn't as good as we would like. We'd been warned that this year in particular the fish weren't biting very well. But we'd tried Buller, where everyone else had so much luck, and that didn't work for us, so why not stick with what we know? We came back armed with our worm powerbait (after receiving a tip from another fisherman) and could not believe our luck. Everyone caught something, including the 4 year olds. We kept five of the fish, and threw back at least that many. By the end of our fishing trip, every cast was a catch. We actually called it a day because we were catching too many and it was getting taxing to have to keep digging our hooks out of the mouths of the fish! While we'd got a bit of rain during our hike, it stayed shiny for our whole time fishing. We went home that night for our taco and trout dinner.

Wednesday we'd expected it to be rainy, so we scheduled our shopping trip into Banff for that day. We filled up on bacon and eggs in the morning, then drove in to the townsite. First we stopped at Cave and Basin to show the kids around. It's a neat place to check out every couple of years at least. When we finally got around to shopping people were starting to get hungry, so we stopped to pick up a couple items we'd intended to get that day, and ended up at The Old Spaghetti Factory - our regular lunch destination in Banff. Manicotti, clam chowder, and bread made up my meal, and it wouldn't be a meal at the Spaghetti Factory without their spumoni ice cream for dessert! People were full, and a little tired, and sore from the day before, so we didn't spend a ton of time wandering the stores, but rather everyone hit their favorite shops. We bought a small Daase print from a local gallery, some rocks for Gabe to start his own rock collection, and even went to the candy store so Gabe could spend some of the money he'd been saving for a while. Finally, at the toy store, we picked up a present for Nathaniel's second birthday. There were a few more things we'd intended to buy on our vacation, but since we planned on shopping in Canmore the next day, we figured we'd get it done then. We drove back through the rain, which was finally picking up, and got ready for a date night; my parents offered to watch all the kids while we went out for a little date. Since it was raining heavily, we didn't want to drive too far, so we opted to check out the little roadside restaurant at the bottom of the mountain. We went for dinner at The Junction House in Dead Man's Flats. We had originally intended stopping in just for dessert, but when we read the dinner menu, we opted out of the hot dog meal we'd planned to have at the chalet, and went for our full meal. When we pulled up the parking lot was pooling a lot of water, and we half expected the place to be dead, but it was bustling inside! The setting was quaint and friendly - people talked to everyone who came in and chatted about where the were from and the crazy rain. We went all out for dinner, since we'd opted to not get massages on our vacation (which we'd saved a pretty penny for). For starters we got an order of the beef samosas and the Indian Poutine. The Samosas were large, authentic, and delicious! The Poutine was fantastic! It used real paneer instead of normal curds, and had a good bit of bite to it. Matt got the Butter Chicken for his entrée, while I got the Deadman's Burger with the chutney and paneer added on. Matt liked his meal, and my burger was great: sirloin patty, spinach, tomato, a cream sauce, tamarind chutney and grilled paneer. The side of fries were perfect. The taste reminded me of New York Fries, but they were thick cut and crispy. We were stuffed, but since we'd been drawn to the place because of the dessert menu, we made ourselves order some. I got a cup of their homemade chai latte as well as the rice pudding, while Matt got the Fried Cinnamon Naan with Caramelized Cardamom Bananas. The rice pudding was exceptional. I love indian rice pudding and this had just the right amount of spice with a smooth coconut flavor. The fried naan was great too. We headed back up to the chalets, picked up the baby while the rest of the kids had a sleepover, and went back to our chalet for the night.

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

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