Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Yanksgiving Weekend

Our oldest friends in Banff - the very giving and welcoming Dave and Brenda - have an unusual tradition. They host a huge Thanksgiving dinner and party between Canadian Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving. It's called Yanksgiving.

They started it because everyone was always working on Thanksgiving Day and also to offer a venue to all of the friends in Banff who are away from their friends and family. Which is basically everybody. Banff is a place which attracts people from all over the world and that rule applies to the local population as well. Many locals share in a common story. The typical story is that a person arrives in Banff as a young person from somewhere else in Canada or the world and they stay. First they stay for a season - maybe a summer and a winter. Then a year. And then another year. Frequently, they stay for a lifetime. People also come and go from our lives with surprising frequency. Everybody wants to stay and build a home and life, but frequently are challenged with how to make this equation work. So they leave. But they always dream of a return to paradise. Those of us who continue to live here, give Yanks daily - Life is Good in Banff.
This year, we decided to have a Yanksgiving of our own. Dave and Brenda were having a huge party this past weekend to celebrate a lifetime of good livin' in Banff and as a result, we had some American friends visiting for American Thanksgiving Weekend. We had the full traditional dinner on Friday and pigged out. Naturally, the turkey was out of the oven late and the crowd was getting semi-drunk by the time dinner was served. It was a weekend of lots of activity, food, fun, good friends and good times.

Fortunately, our friends are as active like us - so there was plenty of time spent outside enjoying the trails. It was awesome to have Jill and Beat in town - and it was Beat's first time in Canada. Danni and Ted came from Kalispell as well, to enjoy an awesome weekend in Banff. Danni and Beat are also friends who share in my passion in running ultra-marathons on the trail. Danni, Beat and Jill have signed up for their first "winter Ultra" in Alaska. They are going to attempt to run/walk/crawl 100 miles on the snowy trails of Alaska, dragging a sled with all of their provisions across the frozen earth. No doubt, the Susitna 100 is going to be a heckuva' adventure for my friends!

The friends were keen to slog through the snow and get in some training, so we headed out on the Spray River Trail for a run. It was awesome. I enjoy the Spray River trail far more in winter, than in summer. Winter transforms this rather "average" trail into a white, snowy paradise with a river running through it. Our run was only 2.5 hours, but it was enough to earn our "Yanksgiving" dinner feast. That evening, we filled our home with good people and good food.

The next day, we lounged the morning away before heading out on my "backyard trail". This trail which literally starts in my backyard, joins with the Sulphur Mountain trail for a rather kick-ass 1000 metres of climbing. It was a beautiful day to be on Sulphur Mountain with clear skies, perfect packed snow and people who appreciate the mountains. Yanks, friends!

After our trip up Sulphur Mountain, we headed across town and hit the Tunnel Mountain trail for a bonus. It was a perfect wintery day to be out enjoying the trails and some fresh air.

Our Yanksgiving leftovers tasted great after the days efforts - and finally it was time for the main event of the weekend: Dave and Brenda's party. It was a 70's dress-up party and dress-up we did.

The party was a reunion of sort - packed full of friends of old and new. Many Yanks to Dave and Brenda for hosting a kick-ass Partay. This girl socialized and danced for about 3 hours non-stop in Go-Go boots and a micro-mini. Now THAT was a solid work-out.

For one final weekend run, Iris and I enjoyed a sunny run around Tunnel Mountain and up to the Hoodoos trail. By late Sunday afternoon, I thought I had earned a hot-tub and a nap. I was givin' Yanks to all of the good people who made my weekend so much fun - but Yanksgiving weekend was hard work! The hot-tub and nap were the perfect way to wind down a most excellent Yanksgiving Weekend.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why Hello, Winter.

Tunnel Mountain

Dust off your skis, dig out your mittens, Kahtoola's, long underwear, gaiters and fuzzy winter boots. It's Wintertime in Banff. Pretty much overnight this week, the temperature plummeted by 15c and Mother Nature dropped 25cm of fresh fluffy dry snow all over town. Needless to say, I'm excited.



As well as the arrival of the snow and cold temperatures, we have entered the Dark Months. I psyched myself up after work on Tuesday and headed out on the Tunnel Mountain trail with my headlamp. The snow really brightens things up in the woods, but even this mountain girl gets scared in the woods when it's dark. Really dark. And scary. Note to Self: Next time, plan better so you're not running around in the woods by yourself after dark. Still, somehow I found myself running on Sulphur Mountain this weekend, in very cold temperatures when it got really dark, really quick. Note to Self: It takes much longer to run up Sulphur Mountain when it's covered in loose snow. And, as a bonus lesson: It Gets Really Dark, Really Quick.

So, I learned a few things this week. It always takes a little re-adjustment to get used to winter running. And running around in Winter. Everything takes longer and works slower. Including me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Three Times Lucky - Lake Minnewanka Madness

I love Lake Minnewanka.

It's a place I enjoy visiting year-round, but especially in the "shoulder-season". Locals in Banff refer to the shoulder season as those awkward few months in between seasons. At this time of year, it's the season where there's not enough snow to ski and too much snow to hike. Lake Minnewanka is a great place to go because it's a trail that is at at lower elevation, faces directly South and gets loads of sunshine. Currently the trail is bone dry, beautiful and peaceful. In other words, it's Awesome with a capital A.

In the past 10 days, I've had visitors and lots of them. When I think of a beautiful place to take visitors, Lake Minnewanka always impresses. You don't have to be a runner to enjoy it, it's also a great hike. I haven't been out there for most of the summer, as the trail has frequently had restrictions in place due to bear activity. Now that it's early winter, I've returned to this region with a vengeance! I've been out to Lake Minnewanka on 3 separate occasions in the past week and a half.

Last week, my friends Quinn and Eric were in town enjoying the Banff Film Festival and we headed out to the lake, to enjoy a gorgeous day in the sun. The film festival brings in tons of visitors to the town of Banff and they had made the pilgrimage to the festival from Great Falls, Montana. My couch and spare room were full for the weekend, with friends from Calgary in town to enjoy Banff the Film Festival.

On the shores of Lake Minnewanka shore line, we enjoyed T-shirt weather in November. We're enjoying and appreciating the great weather, but it isn't exactly normal. Here in Banff, we're anxiously waiting for the snow to fly and winter is late this year.

Only 2 days later, I returned to the Minnewanka trails with Mike - my most reliable running buddy. Frequently, we will add on "bonus loops" to our runs and this was one of those days. We headed up to Alymer Pass - which is snowbound, scrambled to the top of a high ridgeline and connected a route through to Alymer Look Out. It turned into a great adventure, complete with post-holing through snow, gusting winds and ever-changing weather. The warm temperatures we had enjoyed only days earlier were long forgotten and at one moment, I was actually concerned about the well-being of my frozen feet. It's crazy adventures like this, that don't always turn out like you expect, which are always the most fun.

Big Horn Sheep at Stewart Canyon

Fall meets Winter

Mike, on the Ridge


Cold feet

Alymer Pass

Sometimes, it's the company that makes for a fun adventure and a special day on the trails. On Thursday, I was really excited to be joined by a group of great local running friends - as well as a few friends visiting from out of town. For the third time, I found myself crusing the Lake Minnewanka shoreline and stomping my way up to Alymer Lookout. It was Lake Minnewanka Madness.

Local friends Amy, Liza and Miles joined in for the fun and my buddy Kamren was in town from Edmonton. We also had visitors from Montana and France to round out the group and the time flew by as we chatted, laughed and cruised the perfect trail.

Martin, Amy, Liza, Nikki, Miles, Keith, Kamren and Me

Martin Gaffuri, is a friend from Annecy, France who has run at the Trans Rockies Run for all 4 years. He's young and fun and he loves to run. He's just started an online project called Good People Run. and I wish him all the luck in the world. I love the name. If this day was any indication, I have to agree: Good People Run.

Nikki Kimball was visiting from Bozeman, Montana. Nikki is a new friend who Keith and I met at the Trans Rockies Run in 2009 and 2010. She's awesome, she's a legend and most importantly, she's good people. She was in town for the North Face Summit - the annual gathering of athletes who are sponsored by North Face. She tagged on a few extra days to her trip and came and stayed with us at Chateau Keith and Leslie. We had loads of fun with Nikki - it was awesome to get to know her better.

Nikki and Kamren, Packers Pass

As much as I love Lake Minnewanka, a change of scenery was in order for the next days run. Usually, Lake Louise would be buried at this time of year but due to a serious lack of snow - I thought we'd try to run in to Skoki Lodge. On the back side of the Lake Louise Resort, the trails are still passable by foot. Any day, they'll be buried by snow as the ski season is just around the corner. This day turned out to be be more of a hike than a run, but we didn't care. It was most definitely wintery on Boulder Pass, Baker Lake was frozen solid and we post-holed up Packer's Pass, before turning around with cold feet. For some extra excitement, we saw a huge set of Grizzly Bear footy prints and some Wolverine tracks as well. Kam and Nikki were great company and it all made for yet another fun day, running around in the woods.

I Ran With Nikki Kimball and All I Got Was This Lousy Photo :)
{Me, Kamren and Nikki}

I have a feeling this is the end of the dry trails and the late season running adventures. I suspect the next time I return to Lake Minnewanka, it's going to be a frozen, wintery, wonderful world. I can't wait.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Serendipity - A Grand Canyon Story


1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

2. good fortune; luck

A fine example of Serendipity occurred in my world, just this past week. Serendipity is when your camera gets returned to you, 3 weeks later, after you leave it in a rental car in Las Vegas.

Yes, I'm a lucky lady. My camera arrived this week in the mail, with my much anticipated Grand Canyon photos. It was also serendipitous that Keith and I had a family wedding in Vegas in October, because that meant we could take a little extended trip and go run "the Big Ditch."

The hubby had it right, when he decided we needed to do something special in the Grand Canyon. Instead of the standard R2R2R which most ultra runners want to notch in their belts, we opted for the R2R2R2R. That's short-speak for rim to rim to Relax to rim. Now that's special.

It was also serendipitous when we arrived at the North Rim Lodge, after a full day on the trail, only to find the fancy-pants restaurant was booked solid. We ended up at the local pizza place, where the pizza was hot and oh-so-tasty and the beer was cold and sweet. Serendipitous, I tell you.

The weather in the Grand Canyon was perfect. A few days prior, it was raining sideways and turning the Colorado River a matching shade of brown. We enjoyed 2 glorious days running in perfect, warm, sunny, bluebird Arizona days. Pure, Serendipity.

Just as we arrived at the top of the South Rim, after our 2 days of bliss, I ran into my old trail running buddy Doran. It was a busy day on the rim, with people everywhere. Any sooner, I would have missed him but there he was, almost like he was waiting for us to say "Hi".
Doran lives in Calgary and I haven't seen him in about 5 years. Serendipitous.

Needless to say, it all made for a great Grand Canyon trip. This was an early anniversary trip for Keith and I, this past weekend we celebrated 12 years of togetherness. Our meeting, back-in-the-day was a virtual Case Study of
Serendipity. I met Keith while hitchhiking from the Lake Louise Ski Hill to the village of Lake Louise, a village of about 300. I would say that for most of my life, I've been blessed with an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident and with good fortune and good luck. I really do have a golden horseshoe up my ass, but more than that I seem to have a knack for making good things happen.

Excited Keith

Wahoo! It's a big playground.


A Happy Wife is a Happy Life :)

Descending South Kaibab Trail

Going, down.

A Shower at Ribbon Falls

Box Canyon

Climbing out of the canyon to the North Rim

Almost there.

North Rim - check.

After completing the relaxing part of the R2R2R2R, Keith gave me a little present. He told me he was going to start his descent an hour and a half early, so I could enjoy a little solo rip down from the North Rim to the Colorado. And, rip I did. But, the canyon kept stopping me dead-in-my-tracks and demanding that I take photos of it.

It was a glorious morning to be running the Grand Canyon and I caught up with Keith, just before Phantom Ranch. It was rather serendipitous timing. Actually, it was perfect timing. We had a treat, relaxed and cooled the jets at the Ranch before heading out into the heat of the day.

From the river we continued, onward and upward. Savoring our day, the heat, the moment and the awesome scenery of the Grand Canyon.

Cool in the Grand Canyon

We marveled at the lushness of the Canyon, a place known for it's unforgiving desert-scape. Surprisingly, the Grand Canyon has a lot of water flowing through it. And where there's water, there's an abundance of life. For Keith, it was quite the serendipitous discovery. He sure did appreciate the shade that Mother Nature was offering up.

Done: R2R2R2R complete!

All and all, it was a serendipitous adventure. Things just flowed along and it was fun to discover and explore the Grand Canyon with my favorite guy.

So here's to the Grand Canyon, to marriage, to the good-life that we share and to many more years of Serendipity.