Thursday, June 28, 2012

Blazing a New Trail

Today we blazed a new trail and checked off another state on our list. Travelling through uncharted territory is always an adventure. We now have traversed all four corners of Wyoming. Although we have to admit that the northwest area is our favorite, as the Black Hills rose up from the seemingly endless prarie we were impressed with the new topography. The rolling hills are blanketed with a mossy green grass and adorned with large smooth pyrite spotted boulders that shimmer in the sunlight. I had no idea what South Dakota would look like, but our first impression was really great. All of the towns looked pristine and lovely with the Black Hills National Forest as their backdrop.

We didnt really know what to expect from Mount Rushmore, but the entire area blew our minds! There is so much to do and see. One day was only a sneak peek at future road trips to come. From Rapid City, South Dakota we headed south toward the National Monument only to learn that the area has so much more to offer than the 4 Presidential heads. All along the highway there is a plethora of things to do. From Reptile Museums, to Old West Towns, to Chuck Wagon Dinners to large water parks, there are enough activities to make everyone happy.

Mount Rushmore National Monument itself was incredible. It is so worth the trip, and we will be back for sure. The drive through the winding hills gave us a brief glimpse of the profile, which didnt do it justice. So if you go, you have to go in! It cost only $11 to park at the Monument, which is the only fee to get into the park. Everything was very new, clean and organized. It was busy, but not so crowded that we couldnt get a family photo without crowds and we got a great parking spot. We hiked along the Presidential Trail to get some closer views of the monument and check out a Native American Indian interpretive area to learn about how the plains indians once lived.

After some mint chocolate chip ice cream in the shadow of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln we hit the road again to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Again blazing a new trail along a desolate highway. For nearly 200 miles there was barely a town, but the boundless horizon kept our attention and before we knew it the interstate appeared before us. Once on I-25 we started to see the smoke that had followed us yesterday, but this time we saw the source. It was a few miles off the highway just north of Cheyenne. A smokey haze covers most of the state, and we will encounter the same tomorrow in Colorado. The Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs will hopefully be more under control tomorrow. The winds have died down a lot, which is helping firefighters get control of the blaze. We were planning to hike in the Garden of the Gods tomorrow, but since it is closed due to the wildfire we will just head to Amarillo and get in an early night at the hotel. Perhaps on the way we will find turtle or if the wind takes us, hike one of the volcanos in New Mexico. All I know is we are heading SOUTH.

Happy Trails!

The Long Haul

700 miles is the long haul. We consider it the maximum distance our family can make and understand it is one that will be possibly marred with complications such as super cranky kids. 700 miles means minimal stops; rest areas, food and Starbucks only. Why would we even consider hitting the road for 12 hours straight when we normally do under 600? It’s all about the fun! In order to fit in 3 shorter drives and 3 days of fun activities, we had to do “The Long Haul” so we could fit it all in.

 This trip back we drove our first day from Abbotsford, BC Canada to Butte, MT. It was a crazy, miserably wet and crabby ride, but we made it in record time (12 hours…usually we do 600 comfortably in the same amount of time).  The entire time we drove through the Cascade Mountains we were literally in the clouds. Finally once we hit the Montana border, 10 hours later, the clouds parted.
Day 2, we awoke to a beautiful clear blue sky and fresh mountain air. The perfect day to drive to the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park between Wheatland and Three Forks on Montana 2. The drive was gorgeous. The road hugged the Jefferson River through the deep canyons as we climbed higher until we met the entrance: a single-lane road built in the 30’s and 40’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp. When we reached the summit where the visitor center and gift shop are located, we found we were the first ones there. Everyone donned jackets and leapt out into the cool 50 degree morning.
The view was breathtaking. An extreme valley dropped before us while the mountains climbed high in the distance. We were in awe! After about an hour of wandering around we paid for tickets to take the 9:15am tour of the caverns. The vertical climb to the entrance was challenging, but not impossible. We were sheading layers as we hiked. The Park Ranger was extremely knowledgeable and showed us fossils in the mountainside and gave us fresh sage and mint to smell. She said the sage energizes her along the route, and I would have to agree.
At the mouth to the cave we were given a fascinating lesson on the history of the caverns, cave terms, rules and of bats. It is a cave after all. The group entered into the labyrinth and were silenced by the darkness and the incredible formations. It was awesome. The highlight for the kids was the "Beaver Slide”, a spot in the cave where we actually had to slide down a narrow pathway. The Ranger gave an entertaining interperetive talk that included funny names and senarios for many of the cave formations including a Romeo and Juliet scene in which they choose to elope instead of jump off the cliff. In their next scene, when the star crossed lovers are in their later years, Romeo pushes Juliet off the cliff in her wheelchair and gets pulled after because his beard is stuck in her chair. LOL! The stelagmite in the collage below is appropriately called "Ice Cream Cone".

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dinner with GG & Poppa

We spent this afternoon and evening at GG & Poppas place at Rabbitswood Farm. (my maternal grandparents) If you have followed my blog over the years you may remember that this is where I grew up. We lived in many places, but if I had to choose the one place I would call home, it would be this beautiful plot of land. My memories of this farm span over my entire life and I hope my Aunt and Uncle live there forever, for I would be saddened not to be able to plant my feet on its soil from time to time.

The moment we arrive, Juliane and Sydney are set free to do as they please. They relish in the unsupervised play outside among the animals under the canopy of the trees. I like to think they also feel the magic in this place as I once did. For in this forested farm the plants seem larger than life, the horses mythical creatures, the dogs obtain superpowers, towering trees whisper you their secrets and lanky young goats become dear friends.

Sydney with Indie

I am finding that time suspends here in these lengthening days. I look at the clock one moment and it is 10am and without a change in light the next time I look its 8pm. So much has been done, but the day doesn't feel nearly over. We left at 9 o'clock with the same energy as we arrived that afternoon. Sleep? Ha! The long setting sun quickly chased our weariness away. So, on the way back to Abbotsford, we drove along the route I walked or biked to school with my sister, Angela and a few neighboring kids...but mostly my childhood friend and playmate who lived next door, Diana. The girls were amazed at how far it was and that we walked without parents. I thought about explaining to them how times are different these days, but thought the better of it. Better for them just to think it was cool to walk to school. At least I didn't have to walk in the snow uphill both ways as my parents did. Mum was always "happy" to take us when it was raining or snowed too much (which I realize now, was more often than not!).

Glenwood Elementary School
Then as we slowed in front of Glenwood Elementary they marveled at how small it is. It is quite funny how as you grow older things seem so much smaller. It looked to huge to me as a child. But now that I have seen Houston schools I can't believe how tiny it is too!

These sweet mares are rescues from a US Circus.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Time Flies

The age old saying, time flies when your having fun, is remarkably true whenever I come to Canada! Before I know it I've been here for 10 days and havent made much contact with the outside world. And no offense, but I think I actually enjoy the excuse to be disconnected. My cell phone only gets US service when I am in my bedroom, so most of the time it is turned off. And I only get online for brief moments when I am actually sitting down, which is not necessarily a rare occurance, however sitting in Canada equals coffee and visiting. Two things not easily done when you are plugged into a computer or iPhone. And so, instead I am savoring the experience of being unplugged.

So, as you can imagine, we have been very busy visiting and touring around. The first thing the girls wanted to do when we arrived was hit Birchwood Dairy to go see the calves and eat some farm fresh ice cream. Paul had never been, so it was a fun outting for us all. Birchwood has the best ice cream. They even have my favorite flavor, Tiger. A wonderful combination of black licorice and orange. The next day we went into Vancouver to Stanley Park. I am ashamed to say this was the girls first time to the park and Paul's first time out of the car at the park. Oi! We hit the highlights before lunch at Milestone's and a little shopping at Roots.

We drove Paul to the airport the next day taking the backroads along the border. Growing up here in Canada, it never really seemed strange to me that on one side of the ditch was Canada and the other was "The States" (as Canadians affectionitly call the USA). After living in Texas with what is percieved as an open border to Mexico, I have to admit I find it rather strange!

Since then we have been to visit my Grandparents and Aunts and Cousins in Langley on their small Rabbitswood Farm. The girls always enjoy playing outside in the trees where I played as a little girl. They check out the goats, throw pine cones for the dogs, examine the asparagus growing along the fence and play with the horses. The girls and I spent a day at Fort Langley. We just love this historical gem. There is nothing better than a hands-on historical experience to really get a sense of what life was like for settlers in 1827. We have also taken to an occasional evening swim at the Mission Rec Center. For $12 a family of 5 can enjoy swimming and activities at this fantastic indoor pool. The fun includes 3 pools, huge hot tub, not so lazy, lazy river and a gigantic (Schlitterbahn style) indoor/outdoor water slide!

On Thursday we enjoyed a special treat thanks to my very good friend Jaida Hay!! She invited us to the studio where they were filming the Barbie and Monster High Doll commercials for the Christmas season. The girls were THRILLED, needless to say. They got to see how they make the commercials, make over the dolls (there are actually doll hair stylists!), the sets and best of all the new dolls! A huge THANK YOU to Jaida who is a hand model in all these commercials. I appreciate her thinking of the girls and I was excited to see my sweet friend of nearly 18 years!

This weekend we went to Harrison Lake where we were lucky to enjoy some of the festivities of the First Nations Band Sts’ailes during their Sasquatch Days. The canoe races reminded me of the AWG Sponsored Grom Round Ups in Galveston. Today was spent at the Mission Children's Festival held in Fraser River Heritage Park. It turned out to be a spectacular day (the first where it was truly sunny) to spend on the grassy hills by the great river surrounded by pirates and scully wags. The festival had a pirate theme and although we all arrived landlubbers, we left transformed into a family of buccaneers. To start the day we all had our names converted into "pirate". Mine was Salty Tooth, while Sydney was Stinky Mate and Juliane was Salty Mouth. Then onto pirate garb and a little face painting. There were lots of reptiles to hold and storytellers to enjoy along with roving performers (our favorite the Trolls) and live music. It really was a great day.

I have taken so many pictures that I would like to share with you, but it takes forever to upload them all. I guess I will have to make a little slide show for the next posting.

Happy Trails!