A Travellerspoint blog

Yellowstone National Park

Releasing the Pressure

We drove through the Northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park at 8:45pm on Friday night (August 19th) and were informed by the park ranger that there were sites available at the Mammoth Hot Springs Campground only five miles away- phew! We raced as fast as the Yellowstone roads would allow to our campground, picked a site and got our camp set up as darkness was completely enveloping the expansive canyon in which we found ourselves. Once we got through the business of setting up camp we took a deep and very relieved breath and glanced up at the night sky for the first time. All I can say is that I have never seen a sky like the one we found ourselves under that night; the Milky Way more visible than I have ever seen it, shooting stars falling through the sky everywhere we looked, satellites racing across the sky and so many stars I felt as if I was in The Planetarium (almost as if the sky was computer generated).

After the kids retired to their respective tents Simon and I lay on our backs on top of the picnic table in our campsite and watched shooting star after shooting star make its way across the night sky. One of them left a beautiful trail as it skidded across the atmosphere and Simon and I were thrilled to have seen it together. After the stress of blindly making our way to Yellowstone trusting that there would be a campsite available when we arrived and rushing to squeeze out every last trace of daylight, the relaxing and magical time we spent conversing with the night sky was absolutely restorative and glorious!

We awakened Saturday morning to an almost blindingly clear blue sky and bright sunshine. It was quite chilly when we emerged from our tents but by 8:00am our campsite was baking hot. The Mammoth Springs campground is located in a large canyon with not a trace of grass or tree so by the time we were taking our tents down at 9:00am we were absolutely baking hot and the dust from the campsite was all over everything (poor Michael had a terrible time remembering not to kick his feet through the dust so our campsite was starting to look like a dust storm had kicked up!) We had originally thought that we would stay in Mammoth, tour the park and then return to our site. However, between the heat and the dust we decided to take our chances and move to a different campsite further into the park.

We also decided that rather than trying to cook breakfast in the baking desert heat we would return to the small town of Gardiner (which is right at the northern entrance to the park) to have breakfast. The kids were quite fractious and uncooperative as we broke down our site and I assumed it was due to both heat and hunger. We pulled away in a great kick of dust and happily made our way to Gardiner where a shady patio, yummy breakfast and fantastic waitress awaited us. As we were waiting for our meals to be delivered I went looking for some maps (I am a complete map junkie!!) and happened into the Chamber of Commerce next door to the restaurant. As luck would have it, the Chamber was staffed that day by a retired Park Ranger by the name of George. George spent ten minutes giving me the inside scoop on the park (things that the guide books don’t tell you) and helped me plan our day. He also asked where we were staying that night and expressed concern that we did not have a campsite booked. Apparently Yellowstone campsites are very hard to come by during the summer months and many campers are forced to camp in the small towns outside the park at night. George asked me where we wanted to stay, immediately picked up the phone and while we were eating breakfast secured us the very last tent site to be had in the park that night!

While we were thoroughly enjoying our breakfast, the two waitresses out on the patio were regaling us with their wildlife stories; “I just don’t like bumping into grizzlies on my way to work...it still scares me when I come face to face with them and I just can’t get used to it.”No kidding!!!!! We heard of mounds of snow into June, bison, bears and elk wandering through town and being sure to look up in trees before walking under them in case of a resident bear- suddenly the raccoons in Hamilton seem so tame!

We left the restaurant in high spirits and were excitedly anticipating the day ahead. I have to tell a story on myself here...I had visions of us in bathing suits sitting in various hot springs throughout the park...little did I know that the hot springs bubble up from the earth at close to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and are so full of minerals they are dangerously toxic. Needless to say, the bathing suits stayed safely in the van!

Our first stop was The Mammoth Hot Springs which is a terraced hot spring. At that point the kids started to argue about, of all things, chewing gum. It became a nasty argument and at that point I asked if we could suspend the arguing for the day so we could happily enjoy the beauty of Yellowstone without it being coloured by conflict. The gum argument was settled as we made our way south through the park toward Old Faithful and along the way we saw bubbling springs, geysers and even bubbling mud springs (awesome!!!) The only drawback to the many springs we stooped at as we made our way to Old Faithful in the south was the scorching heat. It was extremely hot, cloudless and every geyser we stopped at we got hotter, hungrier and more parched.

As we were nearing Old Faithful it was past lunchtime. Between the heat, thirst and hunger it was as if we all simultaneously stopped being able to cope with our vacation, our low level perpetual conflict and the constant family togetherness of the preceding six weeks! One of the best aspects of our holiday has been the fun that Simon and I have had together. Even with six weeks of constant companionship we have had very few tense moments and no blow out fights...until Old Faithful. As we pulled up to the ridiculously over-commercialized geyser and unpacked the food we needed for lunch, it was so hot I thought I was going to fall down right in the parking lot and weep with the heat. As I was digging through the back of our overstuffed van, suddenly all of my frustration channelled directly to my unsuspecting husband and we had a good little fight.

We found some shade, pulled together a fairly decent picnic lunch and went about the business of cooling off and filling our tummies. As we were eating, we could see more and more people gathering at the large viewing area to see Old Faithful erupt so we figured we had better get down there as it only goes off every 40-90 minutes and we didn’t want to miss the spectacle. We sent the kids closer to the huge viewing area and proceeded to throw all the picnic food back in the van...we must have looked like lunatics as we ran back and forth between our picnic spot and the van. However, we were still yipping at each other so we were NOT seeing the humour!

As we walked down to join the kids, Zachary and Michael were pushing and shoving each other so we had yet another Griswold Family moment trying to pull them apart and calm them down enough to wait for the geyser to erupt. As I stood there waiting for the momentous eruption all I could think was that my family seemed to have the same build-up of pressure as Old Faithful. However, unlike the frequent eruptions of the famous geyser, I had no idea how we were going to release the strain from our family system. After about ten minutes of tedious waiting, Old Faithful finally did its thing and we all started wandering back through the hot sunshine to the van. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Michael and Zachary had each other in headlocks and Simon had to physically pull them apart to stop the latest burst of physical conflict...yet another unpleasant scene. Oh dear!

As we pulled away from Old Faithful, Simon announced that he wanted to hit the I-90 and head for home as fast as possible (or leave the family, walk out of the park and catch the first airplane for home). Needless to say, I was fighting back the tears and wondering how I was going to survive the rest of our trip. The rest of our tour through the park was beautiful but pretty sombre. We did see some amazing sights; a huge bison standing right beside the road, a bull elk with massive antlers and a very large crowd of people watching a mama grizzly bear and two cubs feeding on a bison carcass that had washed down the river earlier in the week (George had told us to watch out for it earlier in the day and told us that we would see some amazing wildlife nearby). The bears were too far away to see with the naked eye but there were many generous professional wildlife watchers who were willing to let us have a look through their equipment and we were able to see a massive grizzly bear tearing the flesh off the carcass while her cubs played in the river nearby.

We checked into our absolutely beautiful campsite in the middle of a large forest at around 5pm and set up camp. By that time the pressure in the family was so high I finally erupted and had an all-out bawl which, ironically, brought all three kids rushing to my side to hug me and make me feel better. After my explosion, with much of the tension diffused, Simon cooked chilli for dinner over the propane stove and we all enjoyed a somewhat subdued but peaceful dinner.

After Simon did the dinner dishes at the dishwashing station (the park is very careful about bears) he proposed we all take a short drive back through the park to revisit the site where we had seen the grizzly bears earlier (George had also informed us that early morning and dusk were the best times for wildlife viewing in the park as they were the natural feeing times for the park animals). So we piled back in the van and spent an exhilarating 30 minutes watching three huge grizzly bears feeding. One of the professional wildlife watchers we were speaking with told us that it was likely that the bears were done with the carcass and that the wolves would have moved in by the morning. After having another look through the scopes at the grizzlies, we headed back to the shower station in our campsite so the boys could shower while I filled the coolers with ice (I was planning my shower for the following morning).

By the time we got back to our campsite it was fully dark. While I got PJs ready, Simon and the boys built a beautiful and roaring campfire which we enjoyed until the kids got tired and collapsed into their tents. Simon and I sat by the fire feeling emotionally bruised from the long day. We talked about the job we were doing as parents and wondered at our proficiency. Between the long day, the big cry and the prolonged emotional strain I was completely exhausted and retired to my tent with Michael shortly after 10:00pm. Before going to bed Simon proposed getting up at the crack of dawn to visit the grizzly bear site to see if the wolves had moved in and we all agreed that was a great idea.

I had the best sleep I had had in many nights and 6:30am rolled around far too soon. However, the pull of the park at dawn was too compelling to resist. By the time I was done in the wash house Simon had all three kids in the van waiting for me and we set out into the quiet park. We were no more than a quarter of a mile from our campsite when we saw a huge bison right beside the road having its breakfast. Further along the road were huge herds of bison and the grizzlies still in residence when we arrived at the bear site...not a wolf in site but we still loved watching the bears.

We returned to our campsite and I had a shower while Si and the boys had breakfast. We had our campsite packed up in record time and after driving through even more exquisite scenery and wildlife, we drove through the eastern gate of Yellowstone National Park by noon into a small town called Cooke City. We filled up with gas, bought the kids some gum and headed into The Bear Tooth Pass which is a stunningly scenic drive just east of Yellowstone which winds through the mountains on the border between both Wyoming and Montana and reaches elevations of up to 12,600 feet.

Just before we left Yellowstone last Sunday morning, Simon and the boys visited a new multimillion dollar exhibit about all the hydrothermal features of Yellowstone. What Simon discovered that morning is that over one third of the park is actually a caldera (the crater created at the top of a volcano) which was created by a massive eruption which covered most of North America with ash millions of years ago. And because Yellowstone really is just one huge volcano, there are more hydrothermal features in Yellowstone than on the rest of the planet combined.

As Simon was relaying all this intriguing information to me (that we had actually slept two nights inside a volcano!!!), suddenly Yellowstone became a beautiful metaphor for the pressure that had been in our family system. We are five beautiful, complex and unpredictable beings with our own kind of hot magma at our core. And, just like any volcano on the planet, that magma can push its way up to the surface and erupt at any moment to be a massive eruption or a small bubbling just at the surface. Regardless, every so often the build up of pressure has to be released.

As we wound our way up Bear Tooth Pass with our very own massive eruption behind us, I could feel that the pressure had eased and we were once more a cohesive system. The quiet and expansive grandeur of our surroundings way up at 12,600 feet allowed me to stand way back and marvel at the fact that even in all our hot unpredictability we can still come together for seven weeks of travel with very few colossal eruptions.

And truly, there is nowhere else on the planet that could have held our most significant release of pressure this summer like Yellowstone National Park!

Posted by simonge 26.08.2011 10:11 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Quadra Island, Vancouver and Seattle

And Making a Run for Yellowstone!

I am sitting in a Holiday Inn near the airport in Spokane, Washington. We bid a poignant adieu to the mountains, the Pacific Ocean and Seattle late this afternoon and started our drive east. As I sat behind the wheel this afternoon, I was gifted with a very quiet car; Simon was reading the paper, Max was buried in the very back seat and the two little guys were quietly watching a movie with their headphones on. I had almost two glorious hours to drive through beautiful country and reflect on the past 18 days since we left Vancouver for Salt Spring on August 1st.

Our time on Quadra Island felt like a complete unwind; our own house, great sleeps, lots of family, abundant exercise and tons of fun! The weather Gods certainly followed us out west because we also had 10 straight days of sunshine and perfect temperatures.
Our visit to Quadra Island/Campbell River was actually the original reason behind our trip...being the youngest child of seven, Simon’s parents are significantly elderly and in failing health. Over the past winter they were both in and out of hospital and Simon flew out in January when his mom was hospitalized for congestive heart failure. One night while Simon was away I had a tearful bedtime with the kids who asked me if they were going to see Grandma and Grandpa before they died. When Simon got home from Campbell River we discussed a trip out west during the summer holidays to see G’ma and G’pa and that was the genesis for this cross country excursion.

We did not see Simon’s parents for long visits and never descended upon them en masse but the visits we did have were delightful. One of the highlights was a Sunday afternoon lunch with the whole extended Geoghegan Clan at our house on Quadra Island. Si’s parents were in great form and thoroughly enjoyed having their family around them (particularly watching all the boys, big ones included, play baseball after lunch out in the big backyard). Saying goodbye last week was very sombre for all of us and still brings a lump to my throat and a prick of tears to my eyes. I am well aware that every time I say goodbye to someone it could be the last time, however, saying goodbye to an 88 and an 83 year old felt very hard.

When we were not ‘grandparenting’ we were playing at various beaches, eating yummy family meals, mini golfing and spending tons of time at a variety of skateparks (as our pictures will attest). The highlight of our stay was the last afternoon at the Tsolum River playing in the Nymph Falls with Simon’s brother and nephew, Nikolas. Nikolas discovered a natural water slide and the kids had a ball sliding down and feeling the pull of the white water (who needs Wild Water Works when you have a river like that!!)

We left Quadra Island with heavy hearts early the morning of Friday the 12th to return to Vancouver for the weekend. The closer we got to Vancouver the more excited I got as we were just about to be reunited with my parents after a five week separation (going a week without seeing my parents is long enough for me!) We all bunked in at my brother’s house and had a great three-day weekend together eating, laughing, catching up and basking in the company of family!

On Monday morning we packed the van (yet again!) and headed to Seattle for a three-day stay. Simon had two days of meetings booked so his business paid for a great two room hotel suite right beside the Space Needle. On Tuesday morning we slapped on the sunscreen and headed out to discover Seattle. We decided to start with a Duck Tour (a 90 minute amphibious vehicle tour of Seattle). We had a blast touring the city, singing, clapping and grinning from ear to ear the whole time!!! It was an awesome way to start our visit because we had seen a quick preview of all the things we wanted to see while we were in town.

In two days we saw Pike Market, The Seattle Aquarium, The Space Needle, Pioneer Square and the Toronto Blue Jays play the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field (the Jays won 13-7!!!) The kids and I visited more Starbucks than I care to admit and particularly enjoyed the novelty of Seattle’s first Starbucks at Pike market. We were also lucky enough to be beautifully fed by two wonderful families (friends/colleagues of Simon’s in Bellevue) who were brave enough to tackle our gluten-free and dairy-free dietary restrictions!! We all fell in love with Seattle and look so forward to returning!

After a quick stop in Bellevue at The Microsoft Store and The Lego Store we headed for Spokane, Washington for a night at the Holiday Inn.

Writing the next day (Aug 19/11)...

We had a fitful sleep last night (five people in one room is a bit tight!!) and awakened feeling a little groggy and out of sorts. However, after a hot shower and a cooked breakfast our spirits were restored and we hit the road for a long day of driving. We have been in three states today (Washington, Idaho and Montana)and will be sleeping in a fourth (Wyoming). We have had an absolutely stunning drive through Montana and have been joking that we keep expecting the cowboys to come down on horseback from the hills to ambush our wagon!! We are making a run for Yellowstone National Park and are attempting to complete over 500 miles of driving to get to Mammoth Hot Springs at the northeast corner of the park. It is already after 7:00pm, the sun is starting to set behind us, we have not had dinner and we do not have a campsite booked. If our calculations are correct we will be reaching the park just before dark to set up camp.

We are fully trusting that the Universe will provide exactly what we need and also prepared to sleep in the van if we have to...this is all part of travelling with no plan whatsoever. On to Yellowstone...

To be continued...!!!

Posted by simonge 19.08.2011 19:04 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Quadra Island Part One

Bumps in the Road

On a stunningly beautiful holiday Monday morning we boarded a ferry en route to Salt Spring Island. We had been off the road for a week and were all excited to be on the move again and travelling to a brand new destination. As we settled into our lengthy ferry crossing there were many things of which we were certain; we knew that we were going to see Simon’s nephew who lives on Salt Spring, we knew that we were going to camp for the night at Ruckle Provincial Park, we knew that we were going to see some stunningly beautiful scenery on our way and we hoped we might see some whales or dolphins as we chugged our way through the beautiful waters between Vancouver and Victoria.

What we did not know was that Michael’s body was perilously close to a breaking point and that we were swiftly approaching a very challenging and treacherous phase in our family trip. The past ten days has been a heartbreaking and hellish return to the challenges and frustrations of living with ADHD. My beloved little Michael has been suffering the effects of a brutal combination of way too much and far too little.

When I look back at the past five weeks on the road I am struck with the wonder of our travels; new sights, novel experiences, stunning scenery, wonderful camping, great friends, reuniting with beloved family members and tons of fun! What I also see as I look in between the lines of our delightful exploration is a little boy who has not been getting what he needs. Michael thrives on predictable structure, a daily regimen of vitamins and supplements, a healthy diet, a consistent sleep pattern and rigorous daily exercise. He can tolerate neither sugar nor food colouring (particularly red food dye) and does not metabolize processed food well. He thrives on quiet time in the morning before the day gets going and frequent breaks from our collective family energy (particularly that of his brothers).

Unfortunately, as delightful as the past weeks have been, Michael has lost almost every element that helps him to keep ADHD safely at bay. I am devastated to report that our laissez faire attitude on late nights, frequent treats and no hint of predictability or structure have taken a dramatic toll on Michael.

As our ferry gently pushed its way through the Salish Sea en route to Victoria last Monday, something in Michael’s body reached a critical breaking point. Was it the Skittles I bought each of the boys from the gift shop? Was it the late night and early morning to catch our ferry? Was it the constant presence of his brothers? Was it the massive and oftentimes overwhelming energy of our family collective? I do not have the answer to what happened on that ferry ride but I do know that by the time we arrived on Salt Spring Island, Michael was a mass of frenetic energy, violent hands and frequent unexplained tears. Simon and I were so unprepared for Michael’s sharp plunge it took us a few hours to really tune in to what was going on. Unfortunately, by the time we did, Michael was well and truly gone.

After a very challenging night spent on Salt Spring Island (in one of the most beautiful campsites we have ever seen) we made our way up to Quadra Island where Simon and I have been gently prying Michael from the tight clutches of ADHD ever since. The quiet little house we are renting on Quadra is surrounded by beautiful trees and is both peaceful and utterly relaxing. We are a short ferry ride away from civilization in Campbell River and life on Quadra is blissfully slow and restorative. Simon’s 16-year-old nephew lives across the street and the kids have been basking in the glow of his calm, loving, fun and utterly grounded energy. A beautiful beach with wonderful tidal pools is a short walk away and time has slowed way down for the first time this summer.

When I look back on the past ten days it is almost as if Michael has been very ill and we have been slowly and lovingly nursing him back to health. Michael has been in bed at the same time each night, has had heaps of rigorous exercise and has been eating lots of protein, no sugar and absolutely no food colouring. Michael and I have had some quiet and magical mornings before the rest of the family have rolled from their beds and he has basked in the glow of time alone with me. We have also spent two days apart from the rest of the family and Michael’s body has had a chance to energetically catch its breath.

As the days have slowly slipped by, I have been quietly nursing the fear that we might not have enough time to restore Michael to health before hitting the road again tomorrow morning. Fortunately, he is gradually showing signs of returning to himself and I think we can safely move ahead with our plans to return to Vancouver for the weekend before heading to Seattle on Monday.

The reality of living with ADHD is that when Michael’s body is ‘normal’ it looks heartbreakingly hard to live inside. I cannot even imagine what Michael has been going through these past weeks as he has been slowly declining. My heart breaks as I recall the number of times I have raised my voice in anger and frustration at his increasingly challenging behaviour. I regret every grain of sugar and trace of food colouring I have carelessly allowed to pass his lips. I am devastated to think how confused, alone and frustrated he must have been feeling as his body has been getting more and more out of control. And I am sorrier than I can express that I have not been nurturing the early morning bond between us so that he felt connected enough with me to let me know.

I am well aware that wallowing in guilt and regret does not serve me and it certainly does not serve Michael. I simply cannot afford to waste precious emotional energy beating myself up for letting down my vigilant guard. Ten days ago as Michael was crashing, all I could think was; this trip was a mistake, we should not have dragged Michael across the country so carelessly, we cannot travel like this with a child who has severe ADHD, we simply cannot do this again. However, after mindfully restoring the components that foster success for Michael, what I know now is that we absolutely can travel with Michael and still honour his unique needs. We can travel, explore, go off the routine and stray from predictability. What we cannot do is lose the sleep, exercise and healthy diet at the same time.

We have had a difficult and stark reminder of the constant presence of ADHD in our family. We have also been given a gift. Michael, as always, is the barometer of the health of our family system. He has reminded us that the aspects that foster success for him are also of great benefit to the rest of us; we all need restorative sleep, a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and a period of quiet time to start the day.

We have two weeks remaining in our trip. We have many more exciting, beautiful, novel and fun times ahead of us as we wend our way back east to our full and wonderful life in Hamilton. As this stage of our travels is drawing to a close I am aware that we are making space in our luggage for something extra. What we are packing with us as we prepare to leave this heavenly island in the Strait of Georgia is a renewed awareness of the gift of our health; body, mind and spirit. And so now, thanks to Michael, the back end of our epic family travels will enable us to return home with the glow of both exciting adventure and abundant health!

Posted by simonge 11.08.2011 02:09 Archived in Canada Tagged travel family health adhd Comments (2)

Vancouver

Fun, Family and a Heavenly Day!

We spent an entirely relaxing and wonderfully fun week with our family in Vancouver. The five cousins had a ball in each other’s company and the delightful week sped by in a blur of skate parks, playgrounds, delicious food from my sister-in-law’s garden, long chats, guitar music, singing, Harry Potter 7- Part 2, restorative sleep and beautiful weather. The only wrinkle in the week was my nephew’s fall in the skate park which resulted in a broken arm. He took it all in his usual stride, however, and it was business as usual once he got his cast applied on the Wednesday morning.

Because we arrived at the beginning of the work week, we did not see much of my brother or sister-in-law except for a few late dinners. On Friday night, with the long weekend laid out invitingly before us, we all had a delicious steak dinner out on their deck and enjoyed the food, the company and the cool evening air. We awakened Saturday morning to a cloudless sky, warm temperatures and absolutely no plans. Before the house came to life, Michael and I slipped out quietly to take a long and very steep walk to Starbucks. We had wonderful chats as we walked and thoroughly basked in each other’s company and the welcome change of two people rather than five. When we returned to the (now accustomed) house full of nine people, there was a sleepy and relaxed air of a long weekend with no plans.

After kicking around for the better part of the morning, we all decided to head to UBC to see the massive skeleton of a 150 ton blue whale that is on display there. It was truly a sight to behold- the two lower jaw bones each weigh one thousand pounds and the rib cage can house a heart the size of a small car! After UBC we piled back into our cars and headed for the Spanish Banks. We were not prepared for an afternoon at the beach but that did not seem to matter to the kids- they swam in their clothes and frolicked in the surf thoroughly enjoying the hot and sunny afternoon. It’s always a delight to see Max and my teenage nephews playing like young kids every now and again!

By the time we were finished at the beach it was nearing 4:00pm and we were all very hungry. We decided that a late lunch on the Milestone’s patio in Kitsilano was the next activity on the agenda and headed there to find the perfect table to accommodate us all. Fortunately the chairs upon which we were seated were plastic as the kids were all in very wet shorts from their swim. We enjoyed a sumptuous lunch and as I looked around the table I was awash with a feeling of both joy and utter contentment. I had the feeling that I was living a day that would always stand out in my memory...a truly heavenly day!

By the time we got home we were all tired and sun-baked. After tossing the little guys in the shower to wash all the salt away we settled into a movie and then fell into bed. It had been a wonderful day and I fell asleep with a smile on my face and abundant gratitude in my heart.

The following day was a combination of laundry and yet another skate park visit for the boys. Simon and my brother took all five boys so my sister-in-law and I could enjoy a quiet house for a few hours- needless to say, it was restorative and lovely. As a female introvert I was certainly feeling in need of some female alone time after weeks of constant extroverted male companionship! I had time to make a double batch of granola, work on our trip budget and do some writing.

Shortly after the guys got home (with exciting accounts of their respective skate park feats) we had a yummy wild salmon dinner and got down to the business of packing to hit the road again the following morning. Simon has a nephew living on Salt Spring Island that we all wanted to see so we had decided to slightly alter our plans to head straight for our rental house on Quadra Island and spend a night camping on Salt Spring at Ruckle Provincial Park (which was rumoured to be really beautiful). One of the luxuries of this summer is to have the ability to alter plans as the Spirit moves us...oh to live that way all year round!!!

We awakened at 6:00am on the holiday Monday to catch the earliest ferry we could manage from Tsawwassen to Victoria. Packing up, as always, took longer than usual so we made it to the Tsawwassen terminal in time to catch the 10:00am. The kids had a blast playing in the morning sunshine at the ferry terminal while I thoroughly enjoyed my Starbucks (that I lined up for 20 minutes to acquire!) It felt wonderful to be on the road again and we were all excited for another new adventure, more family and a night of camping by the ocean and under the stars.

Katie :)

Posted by simonge 06.08.2011 01:29 Archived in Canada Tagged park beach travel family vancouver skate Comments (0)

Kamloops to Vancouver

Culture Shock, Off the Road and Into the Bosom of Family!

By the time we made it to Kamloops and our campsite at Paul Lake Provincial Park I had a weird feeling that I can only describe as culture shock. We had started the day in the uninhabited Ice Fields with its soaring beauty and freezing temperatures and ended the day in the hot, desert-like climate of Kamloops. The dramatic glaciers and mountains of the morning had been replaced by softly rolling hills and odd looking sparse vegetation less than 10 hours later; we went from glacier to desert in one day and the feeling was oddly unsettling.

Our campsite at Paul Lake was comfortable and inviting. As the sky darkened into evening (much earlier than it had the previous night) the stars began to show themselves. I felt somewhat comforted when I located The Big Dipper...almost as if I could assure myself I was still on my home planet (that’s how disoriented I felt). An evening of stargazing by the fire was the plan but the sleeplessness of the previous night made for slightly cranky and exhausted kids so we turned into our respective tents very early.

Simon was the first one up the following morning- one of the nice things about going to bed at the same time as the kids is that Simon and I still awaken relatively early and they sleep in so we get some quality alone time. I could hear Simon moving around the campsite and I waited in the comfort of my tent while he got all the fixings for tea (the propane stove, pot, water from the water tap a short walk away and the tea bags unearthed from our food crates in the van). I perfectly timed the emergence from my tent just as the water was coming to a boil- lovely! We spent almost 2 hours reading and enjoying the relative warmth of the morning as the sun made its way into our campsite. The kids had to be awakened around 8:00am so that we could have breakfast, pack up, get to the Kamloops skate park and then complete the 5 or 6 hours of driving that day.

Having made the decision to get to Vancouver by dinnertime we both felt like horses going for the barn- we were ready to be off the road for a while. However, a stop at the highly recommended Kamloops skate park was a must so we got Simon a Tim Horton’s and headed for the park. The kids (Max particularly) had a blast at the largest and most beautiful skate park any of us has ever seen. Max wowed us with his best tricks for over 90 minutes and then it was time to hit the road for our last day of driving for a while.

Even though we were anxious to reach our destination, we had decided to take The Trans Canada highway which is the more scenic route into Vancouver (to make up for missing the really scenic route when we diverted into Kamloops). It was an awesome scenic drive and also rather challenging- strong winds, rain on and off and lots of constructions waits. It was not the kind of drive where the driver sets cruise control and kicks back to let the car do the work but it was worth the stunning vistas as we wended our way through the Rockies.

We made it to my brother’s house by dinner time and we were all delighted to see my side of our western family! We have been together since last summer and my two nephews are now BOTH taller than me. After spilling out of our van yet again (I can only ever think of Cheech and Chong) we settled in, placed an enormous Thai food order and got down to the business of catching up and thoroughly enjoying the magic of reuniting with adored loved ones.

We had completed yet another leg of our journey and the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment was considerable as we turned into our comfy, cozy beds that night. As I was drifting off to sleep I felt like a little kid anticipating all the family fun that lay stretched out before us so invitingly in the week ahead!

Katie :)

Posted by simonge 04.08.2011 01:15 Archived in Canada Tagged travel family canada highway camping skateboarding kamloops trans Comments (0)

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