Family Day Weekend on the Icefields Parkway

February, for such a short month, always seems hard so I’m thankful that the Family Day long weekend falls right in the middle of it for a little vacation.  I’m not the best at planning over-night outdoor winter adventures but luckily our friends had this one covered by booking the weekend at the Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel and so a winter road trip to Jasper was planned. Sometimes February is warm and spring like but this is a cold and snowy year which made a winter adventure up the Icefields Parkway the perfect way to embrace the arctic temperatures and avoid the temptation to spend three days huddled up at home.

Saturday

The hostel is located about 25 km south of Jasper on the Icefields Parkway, making it a bit of a drive from Calgary. Because of this we waited until Saturday morning to set off on our adventure and made a day of the 400 km drive. This gave me Friday night to pack up and meant that we didn’t have to rush to leave on Saturday. In fact, by the time we solved our frozen vehicle problems and finally hit the road it was close to 10 am.

The main highway as far as Lake Louise was in great shape but as expected the Icefields Parkway was a slightly different experience. The highway is definitely experiencing winter driving conditions (much more so than when we made the trip in March) so it was snow covered and bumpy. We convoyed up with our friends and it was nice to know what we weren’t out there on our own should something happen. While not deserted, the highway is pretty quiet in the winter which is what makes it awesome (the place can be a zoo in the summer) but also a little lonely.

Winter driving on the parkway

The weather was cold and cloudy so we drove without stopping to Saskatchewan River viewpoint (near the intersection with Hwy 11 – we actually stopped at a pullout called Howse Pass which had open washrooms and a cleared parking lot) where ate lunch and went for a short walk to the view point even though there weren’t any views. It was very brisk out and I was happy that we’d taken the time to gear up for even such a short adventure.

All bundled up

After our break we hopped back in our vehicles and drove to Sunwapta Falls. We stopped again for a short walk to see the first falls but I think everyone just wanted to get to the hostel so we didn’t linger long. The highway was actually the worst for the final few kilometres from Sunwapta to Athabasca Falls so we took out time navigating the ice. It was a long driving day – about 6.5 hours in total – so I think we were all ready to get out of the vehicles when we arrived at our destination

Of course there were sheep on the road – and right at a corner too

We arrived before check in so we hung out in the main kitchen/lounge cabin where it was warm before we were given the tour and how-to by the hostel manager and given the keys to our cabin. We had private rooms booked (there are two) so we settled in for a bit before heading back the kitchen for an early dinner. The kitchen is big but there was also a large group staying there so we were happy that we had made meals that required very little prep work. The lasagna was simply popped in the over and then we were able to hang out while it cooked. Everyone was hungry and even E ate a huge helping of lasagna.

We hung out a little bit after dinner and then it was time to attempt to get the little ones to sleep. It took a bit to get the kids to bed – our friend’s older kid was able to sleep in the cabin with the monitor but we ended up taking E back to the main building in his car seat to sleep so we could hang out while the adults played board games before heading to bed ourselves.

Sunday

I thought we’d be up super early but E surprised me by sleeping in until 8 am. Apparently he likes the hostel lifestyle! We eventually got dressed and headed to the kitchen for oatmeal and coffee. The thermometer read around -25 C so we weren’t in a huge hurry to get going on any outdoor adventures. We finally decided to start our day with a walk to Athabasca Falls so everyone bundled up and we headed out. It is about a 1 km walk from the hostel to the falls and apparently in the summer there is a path you can take but with all the snow we ended up just walking up the highway. It was pretty quiet and we kept well over on the shoulder but I would maybe skip the walk next time and just drive (even though it is so close). Once at the falls we did a short walk around before heading back to the hostel for lunch.

Checking out a very frozen Athabasca Falls

After lunch we left Jon and E in the warmth of the hostel and headed out for a cross-country ski. It is possible to ski almost right from the hostel by starting at Athabasca Falls and skiing along highway 93A so we drove back there after talking to a few other hostel guests who had been out skiing. It had warmed up to about -10C and was really nice for skiing. The road was skier trackset and I skied 4 km out and back to Leach Lake (for a total of 8 km). It is an easy gradual climb to the lake and then a gentle hill all the way back down.

After our ski we headed back to the hostel where E and Jon were just getting up from a nap (seriously, our kid slept awesome there). We all met up in the main building for a pre-dinner snack and drink while our pulled beef warmed up for dinner. We put the kids to bed around 8 pm and the adults followed soon after.

Monday

It was -35C when we woke up – so chilly! We packed up our gear and headed for breakfast with the plan to be on the road by 10 am (hostel check out time). Unfortunately, our Rover had been sitting in the lot since we arrived Saturday night and refused to start. With a lot of coaxing and a couple boosts we finally got it started and were ready to hit the road by 11 am.

With the chilly temps came beautiful blue skies and sunshine so we enjoyed finally seeing all the mountains that had been hidden on the drive up. We stopped briefly at Athabasca Glacier for a few photos:

The Athabasca Glacier

And then kept driving to Howse Pass for lunch again. This time we were able to take in the views (and they are worth the very short walk from the parking lot).

Views from Howse Pass lookout

We powered on home from there, arriving back at home around 5 pm.

Three days was definitely a nice break from the usual and it felt good to get out and do something. I wish we’d been able to squeeze one more day in – there were lots more activities I would have to loved to do including a trip into Jasper for some skating. While still do-able as a three day long weekend, it would be a perfect destination for a four day weekend.

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Random Friday Thoughts

Man, I feel like I have some much that I need/want to do and there just are not enough naps in the day to get everything done. Besides a hundred things around the house,  I’ve got a ton of blog posts waiting to be written about our trip, how Baby S is doing these days and our home repairs. While those are in the works, here is a quick catch up about everything else that I’ve been up to and what I’m looking forward to.

I finally started working out again post-pregnancy.

It’s been over 10 weeks since the little guy joined us and I finally got my act together enough to start working out again. While I was able to walk right up until he was born (I even went for a 20 minute dog walk during labour to help things along) and started walking again the day after, it has been quite a while since I’ve worked out (some time in the third trimester I gave it up).  My workouts are still a far cry from my pre-pregnancy workouts but are definitely a step in the right direction.

My plan for June is to work out at least every second day doing weights and a ride on my trainer. In July and August I’ll start adding back in some P90X and hopefully by September be back to running and working out consistently 5 days a week. Then we’ll have to see how I can fit it in while being back at work and a mom. Right now I’m fitting my workouts in during naps so sometimes it can take me all afternoon to fit it in.

I fit in (most of) my pre-pregnancy clothes!

Working out (and so many other things) are easier because I fit in my pre-pregnancy clothes again! They don’t fit exactly the way they used to (I’ve still got about 9 lbs hanging around that I don’t really want) but I’m OK with that. I haven’t tried everything on and I know there are some things that won’t be wearable for a while but having most of my wardrobe back has been great.

I got our garden planted – for the second time

Before we left for our vacation I planted beans, lettuce, chard and kale and set up my sprinkler systems to look after everything while we were gone. Three weeks later and only the kale and some of the chard has sprouted. I’ve been using the seeds that we bought in 2012 so I think that maybe they have reached their expiry date!

Last weekend we went to the garden centre and I bought a few packages of seeds to fill in the gaps and a couple of mature kale and squash plants. We’re keeping the garden really simple this year – just lettuce, two kinds of kale, swiss chard, two kinds of bean and a spaghetti squash. These tend to be the veggies that are most successful and that we use the most of so I figured they would be the best bang for our buck with the limited space and time we have.

In just a few weeks Jon will be off with me for the summer

He doesn’t normally get the summer off with his job but we decided to take concurrent parental leave and have a summer together. We’ll both go back to work in the fall but for the next few months we’re going to enjoy it! Yes we will be as poor as we were when we were students but having two months off together isn’t something we’ll probably do again for a long time. We have no big plans (California was our big trip for the year) but we’re hoping to get out camping and hiking during the week to avoid some of the crowds.

Road Ride: Sheep River Valley

One of my Q2 goals was to get out on our bikes more so going for a long ride on the weekends has seemed like the perfect way to take advantage of the amazing weather we’ve been having. We’ve been trying to find some new routes, so even though we had a late start to the day we decided to try a ride out of Turner Valley on Hwy. 546 as our long ride last Saturday.

We arrived in Turner Valley at about 1:30 pm and parked in the lot at the Community Centre. The route starts just south of there at the four-way stop near the Esso and Chuckwagon Cafe and is very easy to follow. Turn right (west) at the four-way stop and follow the road as it curves up the hill (it is signed for Kananaskis campgrounds). Then all you have to do is follow the highway as it winds towards the mountains.

The first part of the ride is through beautiful farm land. Because the end of the road is closed at this time of the year, traffic was pretty minimal and the road was quiet. There is lots of up and down, but nothing really major.

SRV_Ride_2

The road enters Kananaskis country and after about 12 miles (20 km) ends at the winter gate at Sandy McNabb campground. The gate is closed until May 14 so we walked our bikes around it and continued on the closed road. There is parking at the gate but there weren’t very many cars and all we passed were a few walkers along the first km of the road before we basically had it to ourselves.

There was brand new pavement starting near the park boundary and it extended a few km past the gate before getting a little rougher. We stopped to take in the view at the overlook and enjoy the fact that we could ride wherever on the road.

SRV_Ride_3

The road continues to get rougher as you travel further into the park. There are also several cattle guards to cross and lots of potholes to dodge. Around 19 miles we came to the steepest hill on the route and also the roughest. Unfortunately, we had to ride the hill at a snail’s pace to avoid the deteriorating pavement and loose gravel, so the uphill that immediately follows was rough as well. Luckily, once you’re at the top it isn’t too far to go until you reach Sheep River Falls and finally where we turned around at Bluerock Campground just a little bit further on. This whole time we only saw 5 other cyclists on the route and some researchers from the university – I guess one of the benefits of the terrible pavement is the quiet riding.

The turn off to Blueock Campground is at approximately 23 miles and a little clearing along the river offers beautiful views. You can continue another few km to Junction Creek (the official turn around point) but we decided we’d gone far enough and the road was already in really terrible shape that we didn’t need to experience the last little bit. We had our snack and enjoyed the sunshine above the river. Hard to believe that it is only April!

SRV_Ride_6

Then it was time to retrace our route back to Turner Valley. The terrible hill is slightly less awful on the way down and overall the route is downhill. The pavement isn’t any better, but we made much better time even with a head wind.

We stopped briefly before leaving the park at Big Horn lookout, where there were indeed some big horn sheep on the side of the road as well as lovely mountain views.

SRV_Ride_4
SRV_Ride_5

Then it was back into the open farmland for the rest of the ride, and the point where I felt things started to be a bit of a slog. I was tired (it was our longest ride to date) and the wind was making what should have been an easy ride very tiring. I was pretty happy when we finally rode into Turner Valley. We pulled into our parking space to find a group of the cyclists from earlier just on their way out. It turned out to be their lucky day – the set of car keys I’d picked up off the road while crossing a cattle guard unlocked their second vehicle. Jon drank my reward beer and I had a cream soda slurpie as my treat while we drove back to the city.

Overall, it was an interesting ride. I would definitely go back – but only while the road was still closed since I wouldn’t want to navigate that pavement with others on the road. I’m looking forward to getting out on our bikes again soon – but also heading out to explore in Kananaskis by foot. Bring on summer!

 

Early Spring Weekends

This was definitely a spectacular weekend here in Calgary. Warm, sunny – perfect. It was my last weekend of break so we took advantage of the nice weather to enjoy a weekend outside.

On Friday we started off the weekend with drinks downtown. I rode my bike and it was warm enough to just wear a t-shirt to bike in. Bliss…

Saturday morning we took Patches for a walk on Nose Hill so he could get some outside time before it got too warm. It was windy on the hill but we spotted lots of early spring flowers and Patches always loves being outside.

Our big adventure for the day was an afternoon bike ride. We headed out from our house and worked our way downtown and further south to Glenmore Reservoir. We’ve never actually been around the reservoir before (either on foot or by bike) and so even though it was very busy on the pathways we enjoyed a chance to explore a new area. We took it pretty slow around the reservoir so it took us close to two hours. There were  lots of great views.

Glenmore1
Glenmore2

The weather was still warm but it got very windy in the afternoon. Our ride home was a bit of a slog with a headwind but still nice. We arrived home pretty tired from our adventure and ready for a relaxing evening.

Sunday started cloudy but cleared off by the time we’d met up for a dog walk and coffee. The lawn bowling green was open so we spent the afternoon playing our first game of the season. I definitely need some practice but I wasn’t as rusty as I thought I’d be.

LawnbowlsApril

We got some use out of our new patio area visiting with my Dad and then BBQed up some steaks. Even after two weeks off I’m not quite ready to return to work but this weekend was a good way to end vacation.

This Week in Workouts – March 11 to 17, 2016

Now that I’m finally (knock on wood) starting to beat this injury, I’m back training again.  Its’ been good, but busy trying to fit in my workouts. I’m linking up with Canadian Girl Runs‘ Fitness Friday to share what I got up to this week.

Friday – 6 mile “commuter” ride

After our post-work dog walk, I hopped on my bike to meet Jon for a glass of wine and some cheese. It is uphill on the way home, so I always count this as a workout.

Saturday – 30 minute trainer ride + 2.25. mile run (brick)

Jon went to work and I cleaned the house – it was filthy and took me way longer than I thought so it was late afternoon by the time I got around to my workout. I rode on the trainer for 30 minutes (5 minute warm up, 3 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy (repeat 5 times)) and then headed out for a quick run. This was my first brick of the season and it felt good – I love doing a short run off the bike. We took Patches for a long walk as a cool down.

Sunday – 12 km hike at Sibbald Lake

We hiked an easy 12 km at Sibbald Lake.

Monday – 1000 m swim + 30 minute bike + weights

After our post work dog walk I rode the trainer for 30 minutes (same workout as Saturday) and then lifted weights. Later in the evening we hit the pool for a quick swim. I was super tired and my form felt terrible but it was good to be in the pool.

Tuesday – 2.5 mile run

I caught a cold and was feeling pretty run down by the end of the day. I managed to fit in my run after our walk. It snowed so it was a pretty miserable run but I’m glad I got out there. I couldn’t summon the energy for a trip to the pool so Instead we took Patches for another walk and I headed to bed early.

snowy_run1
snowy_run2

Wednesday – 2.5 mile run + weights

I was pretty tired when I got home from work but I forced myself out the door after our walk and did my 2.5 miles. Then I lifted some weights before crashing on the couch for the rest of the evening.

Thursday – Rest

I had a chiro appointment after work (things are going well – we did some Graston and some stretching) and then was just so exhausted that we took Patches for a walk, ate oatmeal for dinner and crashed. I’d planned it to be a rest day and I definitely needed it.

This week was definitely a little more exercise than I’ve been used to but getting closer to what I’d like. I was pretty good about doing my physio exercises and foam rolling every evening so not too many aches and pains. Next week is spring break so I’m looking forward to having a little more time to work out and hopefully getting in some longer activities.